Pluralism in the 1960s American (U.S.) Civil Rights Movement(s)

The following essay is a first draft and is in need of serious revisions.  I’m posting this in hopes of getting feedback on where to go with the paper.  My initial intent was to investigate the American (U.S.) civil rights movement of the 1960s with global postcolonial struggles.    Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Diasporic Identity in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and Beyond

Paul Gilroy’s Black Atlantic demonstrated the binary interplay of modernity and modernity’s “other” – the Black diaspora. Diasporic identity, according to Gilroy, is akin to W.E.B. Dubois’ “double consciousness,” where Africans anywhere in the transnational periphery of Africa, internalize modernity’s incommensurable narrative of justice and practice of slavery.[1] “It is a peculiar sensation,” Du Bois explains, “this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others.”[2]

This paper explores three different strategies black activists initiated in their struggle against white supremacy in the 1960s civil rights movement. Black activists in the 1960s American (U.S.) civil rights movement did not agree on goals nor strategies for liberation from white supremacy. In many instances black activists in the 1960s were part of a broader global postcolonial struggle. Historians have recently begun to address the international influences, conversations, and activities of black American activists and global third world struggles to obtain both agency and sovereignty. Although American black activists held different beliefs about goals for their movements, they shared a hope for agency and sovereignty from white supremacy.

This essay distinguishes the goals and strategies of assimilation into white liberal society—often associated with Dr. Martin Luther King’s non-violent strategy. The section entitled “Separatism” covers black national movements, such as the influence of Marcus Garvey on 1960s activists. And finally, the Black Panthers’s held goals and beliefs that deserve their own section. The Black Panthers sought difference, pluralism, agency and sovereignty within mainstream liberal society. Each movement translated international events differently, this paper will attempt to incorporate the local with the international movements of third worldism in the late 1960s.

I.

Classical Civil Rights

 

Historians writing on the civil rights movement are often faced with the daunting task of isolating and identifying various goals and strategies of the different groups, individuals, ideas, and goals of civil rights activists. Scholars, also, disagree when it comes to identifying the overall timeline of relevant or causal events. The work of historian Jacquelyn Hall, however, helps scholars distinguish between, at least, two distinct phases of the civil rights movement. In “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Hall distinguishes between the “classical civil rights” and the “long civil rights movement.” The long civil rights movement, according to Hall, began in the “liberal and radical milieu of the late 1930s,” and still continues today. On the other hand, she uses the phrase, “classical civil rights” to denote the more familiar and popular aspects of the civil rights movement. This phase began in 1954 with Brown v. the Board of Education and ended in 1966 with the Voting Rights Act and the rise of black militancy after Carmichael’s urge for “black power.”

The classical civil rights movement, according to historian Steve Lawson, is most often recognized as “a political movement that secured legislative and judicial triumphs.” In other words, civil rights activist sought access and integration into the institutional framework of America (U.S.); they wanted police protection, not harassment; access to education; black representation in local and federal government; and equal access to property and commercial financing. The global First World e.g. U.S., Britain, and Europe, recognized these goals as reflecting their own core vales of Western liberalism and modernity defined as: freedom (democracy), justice (rule of law), toleration (fairness), and economic opportunity. Given access to these liberal institutions, activists hoped they would have an equal opportunity to “rise up through the ranks,” and achieve financial success and equality often associated with middle class America.

Whitney M. Young regularly wrote an editorial column – To Be Equal – which appeared in the LA Weekly. In April of 1970, Young pleaded with black communities not to intimidate police. He knew the police were unfair when it came to African Americans, but he felt that the growing anti-police rhetoric – “pigs” – would only fuel police violence. “One of the big problems,” Young argued in his column, “is that there aren’t enough black police officers.” He praised Philadelphia’s police department for, not only including African Americans on the force, but also for sending “a Recruit mobile around giving walk-in tests at all hours of the day and night to prospective recruits.”[3]

When police superintendent, Joseph Giarusso, reached out to the black community with the “Getting To Know You,” program, the LA Weekly, according to historian Kent Germany, “applauded Chief Giarusso for realizing that ‘positive community action is the best antidote to violence.”[4] This program, according to Mayor Victor Schiro and the Housing Authority of New Orleans, supposedly prevented large events of “social disorder,” in the summer of ’66.[5] C.C. Dejoie Jr., editor of the LA Weekly, “announced on the front page of his paper that six African Americans had successfully passed the civil service exam for appointment to the police force.” [6]

II.

Separatism

Black separatist rejected the strategies and goals of the classical civil rights movement. They believed inclusion and assimilation was illusionary, contradictory, and parasitic on white culture.[7] “Double consciousness,” Black Nationalist and separatist believed, could only be alleviated by complete separation from white society. Charles E. Silberman, in Crisis in Black and White (1964), published two years before the pivotal “Black Power,” moment in ’66, considered black nationalism as indicative of Dubois’ “double consciousness.” He asked, do “Negroes really want integration?” Should they want integration? American culture, Silberman thought, went through great lengths to keep Africans out, were their institutions worth struggling for? He quotes Lorraine Hansberry, “Is it necessary to integrate oneself into a burning house?” He defines his own sense of “double consciousness,” by saying that “there is no Negro who at some time or other has wanted to shout to white America, ‘If you won’t let me in, for God’s sake let me out!”[8]Historian Claybourne Carson argues that black s. They challenged popular white views of African Americans by essentializing black identity. According to historian Claybourne Carson, separatists believed in an “uncompromising commitment to ideals,” which they hoped would lead to “major social change.”[9]   In other words, Carson suggest, they adopted an “ideological dogmatism,” in hopes of awakening “the consciousness of black people and begin[ing] a new phase of the black struggle.” [10] According to historians Robert Brown and Todd Shaw, in “Separate Nations: Two Attitudinal Dimensions of Black Nationalism,” many different forms of nationalism and separatism existed, but they identify two ideal to help us better understand their methods and goals. “Community nationalism,” sought self-reliance through building strong communities, supporting black business, and voting for black politicians. “Separatist nationalist,” on the other hands, sought complete autonomy and sovereignty from white society. They wanted their own state, rights, and international recognitions.[11]

Historian Hasan Kwame Jefferies links the late 1960s rise of black nationalism to a general notion of distrust by black activist for their white counterparts.[12] This perspective supports Carson’s theory that a surge of new young activist emerged, who began criticizing classical civil rights activists for their Fabian tactics their goals for assimilation. A fringe element of the SNCC emerged as a dominating separatist movement called the Atlanta Project. Atlanta Project activist, John Churchville, announced that the civil rights movement was “dead,” in a position paper; he wrote, “the civil rights movement is not and never was our movement.”[13] For Churchville, the “civil rights struggle since slavery has been one of advancing our position as slaves, but not abolishing slaves.”[14] This criticism was shared by Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, though Carmichael at the time did not support the Atlanta Group separatist, they suggested that the problem with the classical civil rights was that there had not been a “national organization,” that could address the needs of the “growing militancy of young black.”[15] growing young black militants Atlanta Project activists believed that African Americans should turn to one another, instead of the white populace, for support and self-determination. A strong African American racial identity, the separatist touted, was the only way to “eliminate racial inferiority and political impotence.”[16]

Black nationalist and other black activist often connected with like-minded thinkers and Marxists revolutionaries through the third world, but transnational Marxism (or Maoism) did not reconcile racial construction and subsequent ‘racial’ biasness—especially in the United States.[18] This served to fragment and fracture the Black Nationalist’s movement’s connection with Communists ideologies and may have even helped separate transnational connections between black Nationalists and international Communists movements. Although Communism originated as a collectivizing ideology, in America (U.S.) blacks were often treated as insupperior to white Communists, thus forcing blacks to face racism in what seemed to be an all inclusive movement toward workers’ revolution and rights. Black activit, Bill Ware—organizer of the Atalntic Project—complained that white leftists and radicals were little better than the white status quos. White radicals would not lead African Americans to freedom, Ware declared, “but only more subtle forms of slavery.”[19]  An anonymous contributor to the Black Panthers Newspaper, July 20, 1967, agreeing with Ware claimed that white radicals often portrayed themselves as being smarter and more intellectual than their black cohorts and white radicals ofrten acted as the vanguard of revolutionary sentiment in America. According to an anonymous author for in editorial for the Black Panther Newspaper, July 20, 1967, white radicals were little better than other white racists, they thought they were smarter than the black community and acted as if they should be the sole vanguard of a revolution in America.

Another anonymous contributor to the Black Panther Magazine claimed that “The Communist Party [U.S.A.] supports the Soviet Union against the Peoples Republic of China,” she or he goes on to suggests that the U.S.S.R. betrayed and abandoned the “Third World.”  The Black Panthers and many activits involved in the Black Power movements looked to third world for inspiration and support. They often preferred Maoism over the rhetoric coming form Moscow. Moscow’s distancing from third world activities somewhat isolated or at least removed serious support for the Black Power movement. American communists qipped over “legal difficulties of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense”, these views, according to the writer, reflected the actions of the Soviet Union.[20]

A recent work by Sarah Seidman, “Tricontinental Routes of Solidarity: Stokely Carmichael in Cuba,” addresses Carmichael’s, long neglected, visit to Cuba in 1967. Carmichael traveled to Cuba to attend the Organization of Latin American Solidarity. In Cuba, Carmichael reached out to support and connect black struggles in America to the third world. In a short speech, he criticized the classical civil rights movement’s capitalist/ bourgeoisie goals and sided with international colonial struggles against Western hegemony. “Our people are a colony within the United States; you,” he said to the OLAS, “are colonies outside the United States.” Carmichael went on, “it is more than a figure of speech to say that black communities in America are the victims of white imperialism and colonial exploitation.”

III.

Black Panthers

According to Cornel West, “The Black Panther Party was the greatest threat to American apartheid because it was indigenous in composition, interracial in strategies and tactics, and international in vision and analysis.” The BPP, as we can see from West’s statement, stands out from both the classical civil rights and separatist movements, mainly because they were community-oriented, ideologically pragmatic, and internationally inspired. They synthesized black pride and black power with community activism, based, not solely on any single ideology, but instead they drew inspiration from a pastiche of ideologies e.g. Marxism, Maoism, and Fanon. They imagined themselves as part of an international cadre of colonized subjects, whose goal should always be the betterment of the masses, whom they represented. They did not want to carve out national space, nor reproduce a political system that represented Western Liberalism or post-colonial nationalism.  And unlike, the separatist and/or black Marxist, the BPP did not put ideology before the people. For instance, Huey P. Newton, one of the founders of the BPP, in his first book Die for the People described the BPP’s survival program.

We recognized that in order to bring the people to the level of consciousness where they would seize the time, it would be necessary to serve their interests in survival by developing programs which would help them to meet their daily needs.[21]

In an introduction to the 2009 edition of Die for the People, author Toni Morrison notes that Newton “insisted that true revolutionaries commit their lives to the people and must be willing ‘to die for the people.’[22] The BPP drew inspiration from Mao’s Cultural Revolution and guerilla tactics, which they translated into community programs and self-protection. In 1968, the BPP encouraged members to read Mao’s Red Book so that they could “revolutionize the people.”[23]

Their pragmatism is best seen through the change in their ten-point program from the original in 1966 and its revision in 1970. The first ten-point program outlined as one of its goals to bring the case of the BPP and American internal colonialism/ racism to the United Nations:

We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of black people as to their national destiny.[24]

They believed in a legal system of justice apart from the U.S. that could adjudicate their situation in America. They felt, then, that the U.N. was part of the same system that they were battling on the streets in America. They changed their goal to:

We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace, and people’s community control of modern technology.[25]

The BPP started a free breakfast program in New Orleans in 1970. “To Feed Our Children,” a comment on the breakfast program by Huey Newton in 1969, indicated that the program was aimed at providing nutritious food for black youths in various neighborhood across the U.S. Newton says, “we must survive this evil government and build a new one fit for the service of all the people.”[26] Newton’s comments show that the BPP were acting locally to bring about national, and international, change. But the New Orleans breakfast program caused alarm among white city officials.

Orissa Arend, in Showdown in Desire: the Black Panthers take a Stand in New Orleans (2009), takes a rare look at BPP activism in a city not always known for its radical politics. The New Orleans affair, ended up in the arrest of several BPP members, who were eventually acquitted. The program ended unsuccessfully, due to the New Orleans Police Department. For our purposes, however, the BPP view of the police stands in stark contrast to those of the classical civil rights movement and, thus, serves to elucidate the extreme differences in outlooks between the BPP and the classical civil rights.

The Police Superintendent, Giasrusso mentioned above and praised for advocating community out-reach programs between blacks and police by the moderate LA Weekly, viewed the BPP Breakfast Program in New Orleans with disdain and contempt. Arend uses personal memos written by Giarusso to the new mayor Landrieu, to show that Giarusso believed the BPP was the most dangerous black hate group. According to Giarusso, they attacked white people without provocation.[27] Mayor Landrieu, according to Arend, was concerned “about what the children were being fed,” meaning that Landrieu saw the breakfast program as a recruiting process for black militants.[28] In November 1971 the program was closed down with an infamous standoff with the New Orleans Police Department.

Self-determination and grass roots programs that were not promulgated or directed by white liberal society were targeted as being suspect. African Americans were not allowed either to alleviate the symptoms of “double consciousness,” by assimilation or geographic separation, nor could they avoid the problem all together by their own self-determination. They were forced into a system that did not want them. Sileberman’s quote, “If you won’t let me in, for God’s sake let me out!” best expresses the frustration black activists felt at the time.[29]

The BPP would most likely view “double consciousness,” as a symptom of both Western Liberalism and Marxism. Marxism, after all, held firm to the belief in modernity, but they wanted to use it for the betterment of the disenfranchised. The “double consciousness,” for the BPP was the result of internalizing the master narrative of both Liberalism and Marxism. Nationalist sought to alleviate this system by continuing institutions of both Liberalism and Marxism, just without white intervention. The BPP did not recognize these narratives as necessary for their communities.

The BPP settled in Algiers in the late 60s in hopes of gaining solidarity with third world activism. They opened a black cultural center, but their international activism was cut short, largely because of problems in America, as well as an emerging disconnect with third world revolutionaries in Algiers. Though “double consciousness,” appeared throughout the diasporic Africans, even in Africa, they did not always overcome cultural differences from their “home,” countries – even when those countries treated them as outsiders, thus enforcing the standard of identity without a home.

IV.

Conclusion

Scholars are beginning to include the black power movement into the frame of global history. The classical civil rights movement, however, offers less promising possibilities for global connections, mainly because of the moderate strategies and goals of activist, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At a conference for the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora in 2009, historian Austin Curtis presented a paper on “International Solidarity, Pan Africanist Thought and the Black Panther Party.”[30] Another work by Sarah Seidman, mentioned above, also connects national with international histories through Carmichael’s experience in Cuba, but she focuses more on the difference rather than connections and inspiration that Carmichael drew from Cuban revolutionaries. Black separatism and the BPP drew inspiration from international movements during the late 1960s; their activities both in America and throughout the world cannot be fully understood without acknowledging global “thirdworldism.” Though, the BPP and separatism did not succeed in achieving global solidarity with pan-Africanist and diasporic peoples, they drew inspiration for their goals and strategies from the global periphery. The postcolonial world, often seen as apart from American (U.S.) history, influenced the internal dynamics of American history by offering hope and solidarity to activists in 1960s and 1970s black America.

As global history gains ground, nationally embedded histories, such as the civil rights, in America will have to open its doors and become part of the increasingly connected world. This paper showed how different civil rights activists addressed “double consciousness,” and their relationship to Western Liberal modernity.   Modernity, as such, enveloped the globe in one way or another, by using “double consciousness,” as a common trait amongst diasporic Africans, and even African nations themselves, we are more able to connect the local with the global.

Bibliography:

  1. Anonymous. “Editorial: White Mother Country Radicals.” Black Panther, July 20, 1967, 1 no. 5 edition.
  1. Arend, Orissa. Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009.
  1. Brown, Robert A., and Todd C. Shaw. “Separate Nations: Two Attitudinal Dimensions of Black Nationalism.” The Journal of Politics 64, no. 1 (February 1, 2002): 22–44.
  1. Carson, Clayborne. In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Harvard University Press, 1981.
  1. Clemons, Michael L., and Charles E. Jones. “Global Solidarity: The Black Panther Party in the International Arena.” New Political Science 21, no. 2 (June 1999): 177.
  1. Curtis, Austin. International Solidarity, Pan Africanist Thought and the Black Panther Party. Presentation. ASWAD Ghana Program, August 2, 2009.
  1. Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Rockville, Md.: Arc Manor, 2008.
  1. Germany, Kent B. New Orleans after the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007.
  2. Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993.
  1. Hamilton, Charles, and Kwame Ture. Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America. Random House LLC, 2011.
  1. Hilliard, David, and Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation. The Black Panther Party Service to the People Programs. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.
  1. Jeffries, Hasan Kwame. “SNCC, Black Power, and Independent Political Party Organizing in Alabama, 1964-1966.” The Journal of African American History 91, no. 2 (April 1, 2006): 171–193.
  1. Makalani, Minkah. In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.
  1. Mao, Zedong, and Shawn Connors. The Red Book of Guerrilla Warfare. El Paso, Tex.: El Paso Norte Press, Special Edition Books, 2010.
  1. Moore, Leonard N. Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina. LSU Press, 2010.
  1. Newton, Huey P. “To Feed Our Children.” The Black Panther, April 26, 1969. US History Archive (marxist.org) 2001. http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/1969/03/26.htm.
  2. Newton, Huey P, and Toni Morrison. To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton. New York: Writers and Readers Pub., 1999.

———. To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton. San Francisco, Calif.: City Lights Books, 2009.

  1. Newton, Huey P. War Against The Panthers: A Study Of Repression In America, 1980. http://archive.org/details/WarAgainstThePanthersAStudyOfRepressionInAmerica.
  1. Pulido, Laura. Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles. University of California Press, 2005.
  1. Seidman, Sarah. “Tricontinental Routes of Solidarity: Stokely Carmichael in Cuba.” Journal of Transnational American Studies 4, no. 2 (January 1, 2012). http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0wp587sj.
  1. Silberman, Charles E. Crisis in Black and White. Random House, 1964.
  1. Smith, Jennifer B. An International History of the Black Panther Party. Taylor & Francis, 1999.
  1. Street, Joe. “The Historiography of the Black Panther Party.” Journal of American Studies 44, no. 02 (2010): 351–375. doi:10.1017/S0021875809991320.
  1. Wilkins, Roy. “Police and the Community.” Louisiana Weekly. April 11, 1970, sec. Editorial.

[1] Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousnes.s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), esp. 91, 126.

[2] W. E. B Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (Rockville, Md.: Arc Manor, 2008), 12.

[3] Roy Wilkins, “Police and the Community,” Louisiana Weekly, April 11, 1970, sec. Editorial.

[4] Kent B Germany, New Orleans after the Promises: Poverty, Citizenship, and the Search for the Great Society (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007), 138.

[5] Leonard N. Moore, Black Rage in New Orleans: Police Brutality and African American Activism from World War II to Hurricane Katrina (LSU Press, 2010), 44.

[6] Ibid., 25.

[7] Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Harvard University Press, 1981), 191.

[8] Charles E. Silberman, Crisis in Black and White (Random House, 1964), 145.

[9] Carson, In Struggle, 191.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Robert A. Brown and Todd C. Shaw, “Separate Nations: Two Attitudinal Dimensions of Black Nationalism,” The Journal of Politics 64, no. 1 (February 1, 2002): 25–27.

[12] Hasan Kwame Jeffries, “SNCC, Black Power, and Independent Political Party Organizing in Alabama, 1964-1966,” The Journal of African American History 91, no. 2 (April 1, 2006): 172.

[13] Carson, In Struggle, 195.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Charles Hamilton and Kwame Ture, Black Power: Politics of Liberation in America (Random House LLC, 2011), 50.

[16] Carson, In Struggle, 194.

[17] Hamilton and Ture, Black Power, 54.

[18] Minkah Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 225–230.

[19] Carson, In Struggle, 194. From Ware interview; “The Nitty-Gritty: The Reasons Why,” box 1, folder 1, Atlanta Project Papers, SHSW.

[20] Anonymous, “Editorial: White Mother Country Radicals,” Black Panther, July 20, 1967, 1 no. 5 edition.

[21] David Hilliard and Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, The Black Panther Party Service to the People Programs (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008), 3; Huey P Newton and Toni Morrison, To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (New York: Writers and Readers Pub., 1999), 102.

[22] Huey P Newton and Toni Morrison, To Die for the People: The Writings of Huey P. Newton (San Francisco, Calif.: City Lights Books, 2009), xiv; Joe Street, “The Historiography of the Black Panther Party,” Journal of American Studies 44, no. 02 (2010): 355, doi:10.1017/S0021875809991320.

[23] Zedong Mao and Shawn Connors, The Red Book of Guerrilla Warfare (El Paso, Tex.: El Paso Norte Press, Special Edition Books, 2010), 113.

[24] Laura Pulido, Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles (University of California Press, 2005), 168; Also in: Huey P. Newton, War Against The Panthers: A Study Of Repression In America, 1980, http://archive.org/details/WarAgainstThePanthersAStudyOfRepressionInAmerica.

[25] Hilliard and Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, The Black Panther Party Service to the People Programs, 76.

[26] Huey P Newton, “To Feed Our Children,” The Black Panther, April 26, 1969, US History Archive (marxist.org) 2001, http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/1969/03/26.htm.

[27] Orissa Arend, Showdown in Desire: The Black Panthers Take a Stand in New Orleans (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2009), 10–11.

[28] Ibid., 11.

[29] Silberman, Crisis in Black and White, 145.

[30] Austin Curtis, International Solidarity, Pan Africanist Thought and the Black Panther Party, Presentation, ASWAD Ghana Program, August 2, 2009; See also: Sarah Seidman, “Tricontinental Routes of Solidarity: Stokely Carmichael in Cuba,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 4, no. 2 (January 1, 2012), http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0wp587sj; Michael L. Clemons and Charles E. Jones, “Global Solidarity: The Black Panther Party in the International Arena,” New Political Science 21, no. 2 (June 1999): 177; Jennifer B. Smith, An International History of the Black Panther Party (Taylor & Francis, 1999).

Advertisements

The Origins of the American Revolution: Politics and Politicized Societies

Update

The Junto

This is the fifth post in a weeklong roundtable about “The Origins of the American Revolution.” On Monday, Tom Cutterham kicked things off by exhorting historians to stop “separat[ing] economic from constitutional, imperial, political, or even intellectual causes of the revolution.” On Tuesday Jessica Parr raised questions about the convergence of religious and political rhetoric during the Revolution. Mark Boonshoft considered the importance of civil society and associationism, and yesterday Michael Hattem called for sharper attention to the periodization of the Revolution. In today’s post, Ken Owen argues for using politics as the lens with which to sharpen our focus on the disjunctures of the 1760s and 1770s. Tomorrow, the roundtable will conclude with a guest post from Jackie Reynoso.

7080030Revolutionary America was a politicized society. All of the most important conflicts of the American Revolution, from the Stamp Act through Independence to the ratification of the…

View original post 777 more words

Civil War Monuments in the American (U.S.) South

Symbols develop meaning through social use, conversation, and definition.  The symbols in the South commemorating the Civil War, regardless of the original intent (which was very racist), stand as symbols for memorilizing those who enslaved and profited from the labor of black Americans in the nineteenth century.  These symbols have been used, and maybe misappropriated, by racists throughout the nation.  Black Americans were never part of the conversations surrounding the meaning and creation of these icons.  Regardless of what these icons were, they are now symbols of slavery, symbols that represent oppression (and America (U.S.) is full of these symbols).  If we want to keep these memorials, maybe we should surround them with images of the those who were incarcerated for nothing more than the color of their skin. Maybe we should commemorate the largest slave revolt in America that happened just outside New Orleans.  But, of course, this will cause ‘tension.’  This ‘tension’ has not been settled, but we are beginning to see conversations over the contemporary meaning of the symbols rise to the surface.  What matters now, is who dominates these conversations… the media?

Below is an article written by a professor at the University of New Orleans and a PhD. candidate.  I appreciate their argument, but I disagree.

Article

The Origins of the American Revolution: A Roundtable

The Origins of the American Revolution: A Roundtable.  Comment

Tom Cutterham, reviewing  Nick Bunker’s An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America (Knopf, 2014) states that  “what distinguishes Bunker’s approach from that of, say, David Waldstreicher and Staughton Lynd, is that Bunker never seeks to make a strong distinction between so-called “economic” and “constitutional” causes of the revolution.”  This trend is something that can be found in many recent historical works concerning both the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  For instance, in the forward of Mercantilism Reimagined: Political Economy in Early Modern Britain and Its Empire, Philip J. Stern and Carl Wennerlind make a similar argument stating that what we (modern) have distinguished between political and economic was not so distinct in the eighteenth century.  Both Cutterham and Michael Braddick (in reference to Mercantilism Reimagined) refer to the 2008 stock market debacle, which seems to have reminded us that the political and economic are indeed not distinct.

The Origins of the American Revolution: A Roundtable

The Junto

“The origins and causes of the Revolution remain the two least studied parts of the Revolution in the last thirty years.” So we suggested in these pages back in spring. Was that assessment correct? Where have historians got to in understanding the origins of the revolution; and where do we still need to go? All this week, members of The Junto will weigh in on the question of causes, in an effort to take stock. This is not intended as a definitive overview of current scholarship. Rather, we’ll be exploring our own idiosyncratic approaches to revolutionary origins, and to the recent scholarship that interests us. We invite you to join in the conversation!

Empire on the EdgeBeyond any new discoveries of evidence and perhaps new technological capacities, every new generation of historians has something unique to contribute to the study of the past—a consciousness of its own time and place. History is written on a…

View original post 722 more words