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We Ain't What We Ought to Be

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Stephen Tuck. We Ain’t What We Ought to Be: The Black Freedom Struggle from Emancipation to Obama. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010. 


         In We Ain’t What We Ought to Be, Tuckargues that “there was no such thing as a single black protest agenda,” “no single black experience,” nor was there “a single black culture” (3). Instead the fight for civil rights was fought by diverse participants who utilized diverse tactics and strategies to achieve their goals on local and national levels. Tuck demonstrates how activists were diverse in their goals. For example, the rivalry between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Du Bois demonstrated how some activists believed that racial uplift could be achieved through accommodation while others believed that political and social power was the best approach. Many activists were separatists while others were integrationists and there were those who supported the back to Africa movement while others believed in the American dream. We Ain’t What W…

Impossible Subjects

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Mae M. Ngai. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2004. 


In Impossible Subjects Ngai argues that in the 20th century ideas of citizenship, race, and the nation-state were shaped by restrictive immigration policy. The period from 1924-1965 is critical to Ngai for a couple of reasons. First, many historians studying immigration have focused on immigration from Europe prior to 1924. The next wave of scholarship on immigration has been situated in the period after 1965, “when the national origins quota system was abolished and immigration from the third world increased” (3). The second reason is because the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 was the first comprehensive restrictive law. This law established the first ever “numerical limitations on immigration and a global racial and national hierarchy that favored some immigrants over others” (3). Ngai outlines the two ways in which restrictive immigration policy “remapped” the na…

Charleston, South Carolina: The Ellis Island for Enslaved Africans

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Historians have referred to Charleston as the "Ellis Island for African Americans" because roughly fifty percent of enslaved Africans brought to America during the transatlantic slave trade entered through ports in the lowcountry of South Carolina. this phrase is controversial because the immigrants at Ellis Island arrived there voluntarily whereas Africans were captured and brought here against their will. There are a number of reasons why Africans were brought to the low country, the main reasons had to due with climate, crops, and labor. First, the climate of the lowcountry is similar to that of countries in West Africa such as Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), and the Senegambia region (Senegal and the Gambia). The Europeans were not used to this type of climate making Africans perfect for the area. Second, rice crops were prevalent to the region. Africans, not Europeans, were knowledgeable about rice cultivation again making them a perfect solution to the …

Entertain or Ignorance?: A History of Blackface in Film

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Apparently Halloween is the day that people decide to actively unmask their ignorance. From Julianne Hough dressing up as Crazy Eyes from Netflix’s original series Orange is the New Black to a handful of people dressing up as Trayvon Martin to Italian fashion designer Alessandro Dell’acqua donning blackface for a “Hallohood Disco Africa” themed Halloween party. Some argue that it’s just a Halloween costume and should be seen as entertaining. While others argue that the history behind the meaning is anything but fun and games. Although everyone is not offended or up in arms about people in blackface, those who choose to wear blackface should be prepared for the backlash and expect to suffer the consequences for thinking that it is okay to do so. When I see people wearing blackface, I always wonder if they know the history behind it.


(photo credit: Eonline)



  (photo credit: The Daily Dot)



(photo credit: The Daily Dot)



                                                (photo credit: Fashion B…

African Creeks

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Gary Zellar. African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007. 



In African Creeks: Estelvste and the Creek Nation, Gary Zellar examines the relationships among African Creeks and Creek Indians. Zellar begins the story in slavery when Africans encountered the Creek Indians. Until the 1850s, slaves in Creek nation enjoyed relative freedoms. Creek slavery became harsher and when the Civil War emerged, African Creeks became the first black troops to enlist in the United States Army. Zellar defines the postwar Creek nation as an “unheralded success story of reconstructing race relations in the U.S." (p. 77). In the 1880s, outsider presence brought racial views that intruded the Creek nation. The 1887 Dawes Act caused racial tensions to flourish in Creek nation. The Curtis Act implemented allotment on the Creek Nation, and six thousand African Creeks were signed up in the midst of the never-ending accusations of fraud and mistakes that resul…

The Seminole Freedmen

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Kevin Mulroy. The Seminole Freedmen: A History. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 2007.


In The Seminole Freedmen: A History, Kevin Mulroy examines the history of African Americans and Seminole Indians and their relationships with one another from the colonial era to the 20th century. Mulroy looks to clear up misunderstandings about these interactions. He asserts that Seminole Indians embraced long-term close ties with African runaways as well as freedmen also known as Seminole Maroons. Although these groups maintained close ties, they also maintained identities and cultures that were unique and separate from one another. These ties were mostly maintained after Indian Removal to Indian Territory. Many Seminole Indians and maroons felt Indian Territory was lacking in many ways so they fled for Texas and Mexico. Mulroy asserts that the Civil War lent itself to the first substantial divisions among Seminole Indians and maroons because of the pro-slavery stance some Native Americans to…

Ties that Bind

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Tiya Miles. Ties the Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom. Oakland: University of California Press, 2005. 



In Ties that Bind:The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, Tiya Miles examines the story of an Afro-Cherokee family. The family consists of a Cherokee warrior named Tarsekayahke also known as Shoeboots, his wife, an African woman named Doll, and their children, Elizabeth, John, Polly, William, and Lewis Shoeboots; in late 18th and early 19th century Georgia and Oklahoma. The intimate relationship between Shoe Boots and Doll was the first officially recorded and regulated by the Cherokee national government. Miles mainly focuses on Doll and her children as they provide the most revealing clues for African Americans moving into and out of Indian Territory and the United States. Early on, Doll and her children lived in the Cherokee nation in northern Georgia and by the end of the 1830s; Doll and her daughters lived among African Americ…

Black, White, and Indian

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Claudio Saunt. Black, White: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. 


In Black, White, and Indian: Race and the Unmaking of an American Family, Claudio Saunt examines the history of a Creek family over five generations from 1780 to 1920. The history of the family reveals a fraction within the family. One branch family is of African descent and the other is Creek Indian. The family’s history is traced back to Scottish trader Robert Grierson and his Creek wife Sinnugee during slavery. In the early 18th century, slavery in the Creek Nation was defined through kinship ties. As the 19th century dawned, the Creek Nation adopted to the American definition of slavery thereby rejecting previous kinship and familial ties. Creeks divided themselves by adopting white America’s racial hierarchy that defined blacks as outsiders, created stigmas against African Creeks, and symbolized blackness with slavery. In the 1820s, Creeks began enacting laws that furt…

Slavery and Freedom in Savannah

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Slavery and Freedom in Savannah. eds. Daina Ramey and Leslie M. Harris Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014.





Slavery and Freedom in Savannah is the name of a multi-part project that is comprised of a museum exhibit, this book project, and a symposium where some of the materials in this volume were presented. Slavery and Freedom in Savannah examines how urban slavery shaped the infrastructure of the port city, its economy, political and legal structure, as well as relationships among the enslaved, free blacks, and the ruling white class. During the Revolutionary War, enslaved blacks used the confusion the war caused to run away and create maroon communities in the Savannah River. These communities were quickly found and eliminated as whites reasserted their control in the effort to mitigate future resistance. The free black population largely composed of West Indian émigrés enjoyed autonomy, however, whites asserted their control over this anomalous population through guardianships…

Albion's Seed

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David Hackett Fischer. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. 



           The term Albion is Greek for Great Britain. Albion’s Seed is an extensive study of the four British folkways in America. David Hackett Fisher’s Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America explores the migrations of the Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Borders. Each of these four groups came from different parts of Great Britain for different reasons over different periods. They brought with them different ideas and attitudes about religion, marriage, and magic. The central thesis of Fischer’s study is that “the legacy of four British folkways in early America remains the most powerful determinant of a voluntary society in the United States today.”[1]             Before exploring the four groups’ attitudes and ideas about religion, marriage, and magic, this section will look at where they  originated in Great Britain, the years of migration, where they settl…