Longer Histories of “_____-ing While Black”

In the context of recent killings of unarmed black people by white people, several commenters have invoked the phrase “[Fill in the blank]-ing while black.” We know about the apparent dangers of selling cigarettes while black, of surrendering while black, of holding a package of skittles while black, of asking for help while black, of being hurt while black, of holding a toy while black. This chorus of warnings calls attention to what many of us already know: the attachment of seemingly any verb to blackness can provoke state-sanctioned violence.
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Angela Davis recently explained that this problem—the problem of state-sanctioned, legally excused violence against black bodies—indexes “an unbroken line” from slavery to the present. The story of continuity is cross-cut with the specificity of this historical moment, but the point is nonetheless searing in its accuracy. The resonances of a legal past of excusing, justifying, even commending the destruction of black people shapes this moment.[Continue Reading…]

Black Women Intellectuals, Social Media, and National Race Debates

The public outcry over the murders of Eric Garner and Mike Brown has ignited both national protest and national discussion over the police state and Americas intractable race problem. As people debate the state of race and racism, two observations come to mind: the use of quotes by black leaders and thinkers like Dr. King and James Baldwin and the rise of social media as a space for debating issues of race and racism. King, Baldwin and other men were important figures and their words remain powerfully resonant today. Yet as I observe and engage in these conversations, particularly when participants evoke male leaders, I wonder how the dialogue might shift if we were to also deploy the analyses and critiques of black women protesters, intellectuals, and ideologues. What did black woman intellectuals of this era have to say about race and protest in America? And, how can their words shape our discussions about race and protest today?

African American women’s analyses of race and racism were pervasive and emanated from women across organizations, political factions, and regions. For example, Mae Mallory was a working-class black woman born in Macon, Georgia and raised in Harlem.1 She spearheaded school desegregation in the North and was a well-known radical in New York activist circles. A self-declared “Maladjusted Negro,” Mallory refused to adjust to the idea that black life was expendable and aligned herself with causes that defended black lives and black humanity. She made national headlines when she was jailed due to her association with another radical, Robert F. Williams, and her alleged involvement in the kidnapping of a white couple during a protest in Monroe, North Carolina in 1961. When making a plea for the courts to grant her bail Mallory declared:

“The actual charge against this black woman is defiance. She shall be punished to the full extent of the law…When a black person becomes so emboldened as to publicly admit that he or she chooses to fight back, to protect his or her family, or his or her own skull, because the law of the land does not protect him or her against white aggression, then, this person, is dangerous a menace to white supremacy [sic] society and must be prosecuted immediately.”2 [Continue Reading…]

  1. For more on Mallory and school desegregation see: Adina Back, “Exposing the “Whole Segregation Myth”: The Harlem Nine and New York City’s School Desegregation Battles,” in Freedom North: Black Freedom Struggles Outside the South, 1940-1980 eds., Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard (New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2003).
  2. Mae Mallory, “Ohio Court of Appeals,” Folder 6, Box 1, Mae Mallory Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.

Black Death, Changing Samenesses, & Lessons Taken from Brazil

We are living in particularly fearful times as black folks, and in a climate of fear, sanity is no longer a privilege but an exception. 8:30pm on November 24. My daughters had been put to sleep. The kitchen table was wiped down, and dishes in the … [Continue reading]

The Assault Against Black Males in Education


I am a Black woman who is terrified to birth into this world: a son. The fear that I have mirrors the same apprehension many White female teachers have when a Black boy enters their classroom on the first day of school. However, whereas I’m scared … [Continue reading]

Abolition, Religion, and the Meaning of Progress

The recent public and publicized police violence against people of color and the excellent roundtable and interview with Robin D. G. Kelley got me thinking even more about how I teach undergraduates about various historical meanings of progress as it … [Continue reading]

20 Year Anniversary Roundtable on Robin D. G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Author Interview

We conclude our roundtable on Robin D. G. Kelley's Race Rebels today with an author interview. AAIHS: Why did you write Race Rebels? Kelley: It is both strange and fitting to be thinking about the genesis of Race Rebels just a week after a St. … [Continue reading]

20 Year Anniversary Roundtable on Robin Kelley, Race Rebels: Part III

The following is a guest post from Brenda Tindal. Brenda is a Ph.D. candidate in History & Culture within the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is completing a dissertation entitled “‘What Our … [Continue reading]

20 Year Anniversary Roundtable on Robin D. G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Part II


In his introduction to Race Rebels, Robin D. G. Kelley notes, “we need to break away from traditional notions of politics. We must not only redefine what is ‘political’ but question a lot of common ideas about what are ‘authentic’ movements and … [Continue reading]

Race Rebels Part I: Lifting the Veil That Covers Histories of Black Working Class Resistance

Got one mind for white folks to see, 'Nother for what I know is me; He don't know, he don't know my mind (1).   Too often politics is defined by how people participate rather than why; by traditional definition the question of what is … [Continue reading]

20 Year Anniversary Roundtable on Robin D. G. Kelley, Race Rebels: Introduction

This week, the AAIHS blog will host a roundtable commemorating the 20th anniversary of the publication of Robin D.G. Kelley's Race Rebels. Brian Purnell will post on Part I on December 4, Christopher Cameron will post on Part II on December 5. … [Continue reading]