The Politics of Pleasure and the Smell of Desire

2014-08-04 13.16.39

I like your weight. The slim, pecan shell-colored gentleman softly declared his appreciation of my figure. He spoke firmly, but gently, as his dark eyes beheld mine own. He had deftly mastered that complicated balance of respect, clarity, and male appreciation that bedevils so many contemporary men. It was at this moment that I fully acknowledged that Jamaica was going to be a place that demanded my growth as a black woman who proudly identifies as a black feminist.

[Continue Reading...]

August Links and News

lat-fergersontoday-wre0019545699-20140813Protests against police brutality in Ferguson, MO and other areas of the United States have dominated the news over the past couple weeks and produced a number of important reflections on race, citizenship, political tactics, and respectability politics. Charles M. Blow calls for more widespread discussion about race in a recent New York Times piece. Ta Nehisi-Coates discusses police control over black bodies at The Atlantic. Blair L.M. Kelley links the Michael Brown shooting to the Dred Scott case at The Root. Writing for the Labor and Working Class History Association blog, Clarence Lang explores the link between protest tactics and respectability politics. The Crunk Feminist Collective likewise explored race and respectability in Ferguson.

Ferguson has brought debates over black leadership and class divisions within black communities to the fore. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor examines the generational and class divides among blacks in the U.S., while Brittney Cooper calls for new black leadership.

For sociological research informing events in Ferguson, see the Ferguson Syllabus.

While Ferguson has seen an outpouring of scholarly production to address this contemporary injustice, Historians Against Slavery continues their important mission of using history to abolish present-day slavery. Zoe Trodd recently examined the use of images in past and contemporary antislavery movements. And David N. Gellman discusses a useful assignment in helping students make connections between past and present abolitionism.

At the U.S. Religion blog, Trevor Burrows discusses the “Black Manifesto” and 20th century American religious history, while Dale Debakcsy examines the growth of African American atheism over the the New Humanist.

In other academic news, Claire Potter addresses the University of Illinois’s decision not to hire Steven Salaita and questions of academic freedom. Trish Roberts-Miller’s article on academic workloads sparked a lively discussion at Inside Higher Ed.

Robert R. Church Jr. and the Black Freedom Struggle in Memphis


The following is a guest post from Dr. Elizabeth Gritter, Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University Southeast. Robert R. Church, Jr., an under-recognized figure of the black freedom struggle, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1885. … [Continue reading]

Mixing science and religion: A view from the early republic


In the wake of events in Ferguson, Chris Rock’s 2000 clip on “how not to get your ass kicked by the police” has been making the rounds on social media. Take a look: It’s a very funny bit. Yes, don’t do stupid shit around the cops, and that … [Continue reading]

Language and Power

    James McCune Smith has been described as the best educated black American of the nineteenth century. Born in New York City in 1813, he attended the African Free School as a youth and went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s, and … [Continue reading]

Written in Stone: The Importance of African American Burial Grounds

Mount Auburn Cemetery in Baltimore, MD

I am a scholar of African American History whose research centers on death and cemeteries.  In 2009 after gaining acceptance into a history doctoral program, if you had told me that I would have typed that sentence, I would have called you crazy.  … [Continue reading]

Approaching a New Semester

Please note: I wrote the following post before Emily Owens' excellent post "'We have to Make them Feel Us': Open Letters and Black Mothers' Grief" two days ago from the perspective of "black mothers who have lost their children at the hands of white … [Continue reading]

Michael Jackson Representers

Today the book The Michael Jacksons by Lorena Turner hits the shelves. It is an amalgam of photography and social science research into the lives of actors and actresses who devote their lives to portraying Michael Jackson. Turner started her … [Continue reading]

“We have to make them feel us”: Open Letters and Black Mothers’ Grief

In the wake of the murder of Michael Brown, and amidst this long moment of national black mourning, I want to pause with one voice (or, set of voices). That is the voice of Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, whose open … [Continue reading]

What’s in a Name?


Aisha Harris is not “African American.” She is neither “black” nor “American.” Instead, Harris insists that she is an amalgamation of the latter two terms. “Who I am,” she declares in Slate, “is a black American,” a young woman with “American … [Continue reading]