Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-24 14:57Z by Steven

Review: Matthew McConaughey Rebels Against Rebels in ‘Free State of Jones’

The New York Times
2016-06-23

A. O. Scott, Film Critic


Matthew McConaughey, left, and Jacob Lofland in “Free State of Jones.” Credit Murray Close/STX Entertainment

Free State of Jones” begins on the battlefield, with a flurry of the kind of immersive combat action that has long been a staple of American movies. The setting is familiar in other ways, too. As a line of Confederate troops marches across a field into Union rifle and artillery fire, a haze of myth starts to gather over the action, a mist of sentiment about the tragedy of the Civil War and the symmetrical valor of the soldiers on both sides of it. But this is a sly piece of misdirection: The rest of the movie will be devoted to blowing that fog away, using the tools of Hollywood spectacle to restore a measure of clarity to our understanding of the war and its aftermath.

Directed by Gary Ross (“Seabiscuit”) with blunt authority and unusual respect for historical truth, “Free State of Jones” explores a neglected and fascinating chapter in American history. Mr. Ross consulted some of the leading experts in the era — including Eric Foner of Columbia University, whose “Reconstruction” is the definitive study, and Martha Hodes of New York University, author of a prizewinning study of interracial sexuality in the 19th-century South — and has done a good job of balancing the factual record with the demands of dramatic storytelling. The result is a riveting visual history lesson, whose occasional didacticism is integral to its power.

The hero of this tale is Newton Knight, a poor farmer from Jones County, Miss., who led a guerrilla army of white deserters and escaped slaves against the Confederacy during the war. Afterward, he tried to hold this coalition together as a political force in the face of Ku Klux Klan terror. As played by Matthew McConaughey, Newton is an ordinary man radicalized by circumstances. His hollow cheeks and wild whiskers suggest a zealous temperament, but the kindness in his eyes conveys the decency and compassion that lie at the heart of his moral commitment…

…“Free State of Jones” is careful not to suggest that the conditions endured by disenfranchised white and enslaved black Mississippians were identical. The system may be rigged against both, but in different ways. Especially after the war, the alliance proves fragile, as white supremacy reasserts itself with renewed brutality. Its persistence is emphasized by a subplot that takes place 85 years after the war in a Mississippi courtroom, where Davis Knight (Brian Lee Franklin), a descendant of Newton’s, is on trial for breaking the state’s law against interracial marriage…

Read the entire review here.

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Racial Theories in Context (Second Edition)

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Law, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Slavery, Social Science, United States on 2013-04-15 00:05Z by Steven

Racial Theories in Context (Second Edition)

Cognella
2013
224 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60927-056-8

Edited by:

Jared Sexton, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Film & Media Studies
University of California, Irvine

This book presents a critical framework for understanding how and why race matters — past, present, and future. The readings trace the historical emergence of modern racial thinking in Western society by examining religious, moral, aesthetic, and scientific writing; legal statutes and legislation; political debates and public policy; and popular culture. Readers will follow the shifting ideological bases upon which modern racial theories have rested, from religion to science to culture, and the links between race, class, gender, and sexuality, and between notions of race and the nation-state.

The authors of Racial Theories in Context discuss the relationship of racial theories to material contexts of racial oppression and to democratic struggles for freedom and equality:

  • First and foremost in this discussion is the vast system of racial slavery instituted throughout the Atlantic world and the international movement that sought its abolition.
  • Continuing campaigns to redress racial divisions in health, wealth, housing, employment, and education are also examined.
  • There is a focus on the specificity of racial formation in the United States and the centrality of anti-black racism.
  • The book also looks comparatively at other regions of racial inequality and the construction of a global racial hierarchy since the 15th century CE.

Contents

  • Introduction / Jared Sexton
  • A Long History of Affirmative Action—For Whites / Larry Adelman
  • The Cost of Slavery / Dalton Conley
  • Statement on Gender Violence and the Prison-Industrial Complex / INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Critical Resistance
  • Introduction To Racism: A Short History / George M. Fredrickson
  • Rape and the Inner Lives of Black Women in the Middle West / Darlene Clark Hine
  • Understanding the Problematic of Race Through the Problem of Race-Mixture / Thomas C. Holt
  • The Sexualization of Reconstruction Politics / Martha Hodes
  • The Original Housing Crisis / Derek S. Hoff
  • The American Dream, or a Nightmare for Black America? / Joshua Holland
  • The Hidden Cost of Being African American / Michael Hout
  • Slavery and Proto-Racism in Greco-Roman Antiquity / Benjamin Isaac
  • Colorblind Racism / Sally Lehrman
  • The Wealth Gap Gets Wider / Meizhu Lui
  • Sub-Prime as a Black Catastrophe / Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro
  • Unshackling Black Motherhood / Dorothy E. Roberts
  • Is Race -Based Medicine Good for Us? / Dorothy E. Roberts
  • Understanding Reproductive Justice / Loretta J. Ross
  • The History of the Idea of Race / Audrey Smedley
  • The Liberal Retreat From Race / Stephen Steinberg
  • “Race Relations” / Stephen Steinberg
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Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive on 2013-03-07 19:56Z by Steven

Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History (review)

Journal of Social History
Volume 33, Number 3, Spring 2000
pages 753-755
DOI: 10.1353/jsh.2000.0037

Joshua D. Rothman, Associate Professor of History
University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa

Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History. Edited by Martha Hodes (New York and London: New York University Press, 1999. xvi plus 542 pp.).

In his 1995 presidential address to the Organization of American Historians, reprinted as the opening essay of this important collection, Gary Nash called the attention of his audience to the “hidden history of mestizo America.” Lost amidst America’s long and frequently tragic experience with racial and ethnic classification and separation is a past significantly shaped by sexual intermixture, cultural boundary crossing, and lives lived and identities forged in tension with dominant ideologies. Looking backward with a sensitivity to this “hybridity,” Nash proposed, might hold a key for moving beyond racialism in our future, and for finding a politics that transcends biological determinism without sacrificing the value of difference.

The twenty-three other essays assembled here by Martha Hodes (eight of which have been previously published in whole or in part) collectively explore the possibilities such a reconceptualization of the past holds. The subtitle of the volume is a bit misleading, since nearly all of the pieces deal principally with the European colonial territories that now comprise the continental United States rather than with Mexico or Canada. Still, the breadth of human experience and historical subfields traversed by the authors is astonishing. Working from discussions of the intersection of race and sex, the essays yield insight to historical issues of gender, sexuality, marriage and the family, class, religion, slavery, violence, national and personal identity, politics and political activism, diplomacy, culture, economics and commercial exchange, law, and crime, just to name those themes most prominent and recurring.

The collection is divided into five parts and arranged chronologically. Generally, the essays within each part are logically juxtaposed. Moreover, the separate parts are connected smartly to one another, producing a discernible, if subtle and fractured, narrative that describes important ebbs and flows in the history of sex across racial and ethnic lines in America since the 1690s. The essays in part one examine various regions of colonial North America, and cumulatively investigate European, Native American, and African American societies and cultures encountering each other, sexually and otherwise, for the first time. The authors here describe an era characterized by domination and distrust, but also by uncertainty, intercultural negotiation, and mutual accommodation. The early emergence of racial antipathy and the construction of racial hierarchy-both inseparable  from sex and sexuality-are never far from the surface in the stories told by Jennifer Spear about French Louisiana, Graham Hodges about German Lutherans in New York, Daniel Mandell about New England, and Richard Godbeer about the eighteenth-century Southern backcountry.

Part two moves on to the early national and antebellum periods. Here, slavery takes center stage. Most of the essays in this section focus on interracial sexual activity between whites and blacks-particularly in the South-which was commonplace despite being legally and culturally taboo. In the words of Sharon Block, who compares and contrasts the sexual vulnerability of white servant and black enslaved women, sex across the color line under slavery frequently yielded coercive situations where “economic mastery created sexual mastery.” As Thomas E. Buckley, S.J., and Josephine Boyd Bradley and Kent Anderson Leslie demonstrate in fascinating case studies, however, familial connections between whites and blacks under slavery also enabled some people of African descent to carve out personal identities and establish economic positions that transcended both their color and their ancestry.

In her essay on antebellum New York City, Leslie Harris demonstrates how fears of “amalgamation” were central to political discourse about abolitionism, urban poverty, and immigration. As a number of essays in part three make evident, interracial sex had even more volatile political implications in the Reconstruction-era South. In his…

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Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations: Mixed-Heritage Families in Brooklyn

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-06-18 11:27Z by Steven

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations: Mixed-Heritage Families in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Historical Society
Brooklyn, New York

April 2011

Project Description

Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations (CBBG) is a public programming series and oral history project about mixed-heritage families, race, ethnicity, culture, and identity, infused with historical perspective. CBBG is currently in the planning phase (April 2011 – March 2012) and will result in a multi-faceted interpretive website expected to be completed in 2015.

By providing a public forum for conversations about mixed-heritage families, Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations will inform the dialogue with historical perspectives on social constructions of race, ethnicity, and community; changes in immigration and citizenship laws and practices; and changes in marriage and partnership laws and practices. Through an interpretive website, online discussions initiated and led by scholars, public programs and events, Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) will invite the public to share their own stories, respond to other people’s stories, react to, and learn from scholarly interpretations of these stories…

Scholarly Advisors

Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Oral History Research Office
Columbia University

Martha Hodes, Professor of History
New York University

Keren R. McGinity, History
University of Michigan

Suleiman Osman, Assistant Professor of American Studies
George Washington University

Renee Romano, History
Oberlin College

Michael J. Rosenfeld, Associate Professor of Sociology
Stanford University

Elizabeth M. Smith-Pryor, Associate Professor of History
Kent State University

Karen Woods Weierman, Associate Professor of English (Literary History)
Worcestor State University

Project Staff

Sady Sullivan, Director of Oral History
Brooklyn Historical Society

For more information, click here. View the PDF brochure here.

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A Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2011-01-24 22:17Z by Steven

A Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century (review)

Journal of American Folklore
Volume 124, Number 491 (Winter 2011)
pages 120-121
E-ISSN: 1535-1882 Print ISSN: 0021-8715

Sharon Downey Varner
Department of English
University of South Alabama

Hodes, Martha. A Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. 2007.

This meticulously researched historical narrative is reconstructed from letters written by the subject and her family members. In A Sea Captain’s Wife, historian Martha Hodes brings to life the story of an obscure New England woman who marries a black man after the Civil War and takes up residence in the Cayman Islands. Hodes is a professor of history at New York University and the author of White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South.

Eunice Richardson, the subject of this book, was born a white, working-class woman in New England in 1831. She was first married to William Stone, a fellow New Englander, with whom she moved to Mobile, Alabama, for a period of time. Hodes speculates that it was in Mobile that Eunice first became acquainted with Smiley Connolly, an African American who would become her second husband.

Hodes leaves no stone unturned and no document undogged. Her storyteller’s bent, her understanding of the complex racial climate of the late 1800s, and her extensive historical knowledge combine to produce an engaging historical document that reads like a novel…

Read or purchase the article here.

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The Mercurial Nature and Abiding Power of Race: A Transnational Family Story

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2010-01-21 21:19Z by Steven

The Mercurial Nature and Abiding Power of Race: A Transnational Family Story

The American Historical Review
Volume 108, Number 1 (February 2003)
pages 84-118

Martha Hodes, Professor of History
New York University

There are many ways to expose the mercurial nature of racial classification. Scholars of U.S. history might note, for example, that the category of “mulatto” first appeared in the federal census of 1850 and then disappeared in 1930, or they might discover that immigrants who had not thought of themselves as “black” at home in the Caribbean found themselves classified as such upon passage to the United States. Such episodes serve to unmask the instability of racial systems, yet simply marshaling evidence to prove taxonomies fickle tells only a partial story. In an effort to tell a fuller story about the workings of “race”—by which I mean principally the endeavors of racial categorization and stratification—I focus here on historical actors who crossed geographical boundaries and lived their lives within different racial systems. A vision that accounts for the experiences of sojourners and migrants illuminates the ways in which racial classification shifts across borders and thus deepens arguments about racial construction and malleability.

At the same time, however, the principal argument of this essay moves in a different direction. We tend to think of the fluid and the mutable as less powerful than the rigid and the immutable, thereby equating the exposure of unstable racial categories with an assault on the very construct of race itself. In a pioneering essay in which Barbara J. Fields took a historical analysis of the concept of race as her starting point, she contended that ideologies of race are continually created and verified in daily life. More recently, Ann Laura Stoler has challenged the assumption that an understanding of racial instability can serve to undermine racism, and Thomas C. Holt has called attention to scholars’ “general failure to probe beyond the mantra of social constructedness, to ask what that really might mean in shaping lived experience.” Hilary McD. Beckles affirms that “the analysis of ‘real experience’ and the theorising of ‘constructed representation’ constitute part of the same intellectual project.” Drawing together these theoretical strands, I argue that the scrutiny of day-to-day lives demonstrates not only the mutability of race but also, and with equal force, the abiding power of race in local settings. Neither malleability nor instability, then, necessarily diminishes the potency of race to circumscribe people’s daily lives…

Read the entire article here or here.

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Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History

Posted in Anthologies, Asian Diaspora, Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Slavery, Social Science, United States, Women on 2009-12-05 02:53Z by Steven

Sex, Love, Race: Crossing Boundaries in North American History

New York University Press
1999
416 pages
Cloth ISBN: 9780814735565
Paperback ISBN: 9780814735572

Edited by

Martha Hodes, Professor of History
New York University

Since pre-colonial days, America has been both torn apart and united by love, sex, and marriage across racial boundaries. Whether motivated by violent conquest, economics, lust, or love, such unions have disturbed some of America’s most sacred beliefs and prejudices.

Sex, Love, Race provides a historical foundation for contemporary discussions of sex across racial lines, which, despite the numbers of interracial marriages and multiracial children, remains a controversial issue today. The first historical anthology to focus solely and widely on the subject, Sex, Love, Race gathers new essays by both younger and well-known scholars which probe why and how the specter of sex across racial boundaries has so threatened Americans of all colors and classes.

Traversing the whole of American history, from liaisons among Indians, Europeans, and Africans to twentieth-century social scientists’ fascination with sex between “Orientals” and whites, the essays cover a range of regions, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. In so doing, Sex, Love, Race, sketches a larger portrait of the overlapping construction of racial, ethnic, and sexual identities in America.

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The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century

Posted in Biography, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, United States, Women on 2009-12-05 02:13Z by Steven

The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century

W. W. Norton & Company
September 2007
384 pages
5.5 × 8.3 in
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-393-33029-8

Martha Hodes, Professor of History
New York University

Finalist for the Lincoln Book Prize.

Award-winning historian Martha Hodes brings us into the extraordinary world of Eunice Connolly. Born white and poor in New England, Eunice moved from countryside to factory city, worked in the mills, then followed her husband to the Deep South. When the Civil War came, Eunice’s brothers joined the Union army while her husband fought and died for the Confederacy. Back in New England, a widow and the mother of two, Eunice barely got by as a washerwoman, struggling with crushing depression. Four years later, she fell in love with a black sea captain, married him, and moved to his home in the West Indies. Following every lead in a collection of 500 family letters, Hodes traced Eunice’s footsteps and met descendants along the way. This story of misfortune and defiance takes up grand themes of American history—opportunity and racism, war and freedom—and illuminates the lives of ordinary people in the past.

Midwinter 1881, Ellen Merrill received a letter. It came from the West Indies, written by a man Ellen didn’t know, and the news was bad. That was clear from the second sentence, in which the stranger spoke of “the late Mr. and Mrs. Connolly.” When Ellen reached the end of the letter, she read it again, and then again, before she took out a sheet of paper. “My Dear Brother,” she wrote to Henry Richardson, “I have at last succeeded in learning the fate of Mrs. Connolly and family.” She asked Henry to impart the news to their mother and to their sister Ann McCoy. As Ellen signed off, she thought about dangerous weather. “We had a Storm here last week which blowd the tide in and nearly washed us away for three days.” She posted the letter from Mississippi to Massachusetts.

The hurricane that swirled off the Miskito Cays of Central America in September 1877 took the life of an American woman named Eunice Connolly. Eunice was an ordinary woman who led an extraordinary life by making momentous decisions within a world that offered her few choices. Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly was born white and working class in New England in 1831. She married a fellow New Englander who took her to the South and fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, while Eunice’s two brothers fought for the Union. After the war, Eunice married a well-to-do man of color and went to live in a settlement of former slaves on the British Caribbean island of Grand Cayman. This book tells her story…

…Eunice’s story and the choices she made expose the complexities of racial classification across geographical borders. Her family traced their lineage back to England and France, but as Eunice worked in the mills and labored as a servant, she came precariously close to the degraded status of impoverished Irish and black women. Later, when she married a “man of color” (that was the phrase invoked at the time), she found out that reputation also counted in a person’s racial status and that for women, whiteness depended upon specific ideas about purity. Then, when Eunice took up residence on a West Indian island, she realized that labels like “white,” “black,” “mulatto,” and “colored” carried different meanings in different places. Eunice’s story illuminates the complexities of racism too: Her unusual experiences make clear just how mercurial racial categories could be in the nineteenth century, but her life also proves just how much power those mercurial markers could exert to confine—or transform—a person’s life. In her voyages from New England to the Deep South to the British Caribbean, Eunice also made a journey from the life of an impoverished white woman in the United States to the life of an elite woman of color in the West Indies…

Read chapter 1 in PDF or HTML format.

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White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Social Science on 2009-12-05 01:50Z by Steven

White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South

Yale University Press
January 1999
352 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
ISBN: 9780300077506
ISBN-10: 0300077505

Martha Hodes, Professor of History
New York University

  • Winner of the Allan Nevins Prize given by the Society of American Historians.
  • Honorable mention in the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Awards, sponsored by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America.

This book is the first to explore the history of a powerful category of illicit sex in America’s past: liaisons between Southern white women and black men. Martha Hodes tells a series of stories about such liaisons in the years before the Civil War, explores the complex ways in which white Southerners tolerated them in the slave South, and shows how and why these responses changed with emancipation.

Hodes provides details of the wedding of a white servant-woman and a slave man in 1681, an antebellum rape accusation that uncovered a relationship between an unmarried white woman and a slave, and a divorce plea from a white farmer based on an adulterous affair between his wife and a neighborhood slave. Drawing on sources that include courtroom testimony, legislative petitions, pardon pleas, and congressional testimony, she presents the voices of the authorities, eyewitnesses, and the transgressors themselves—and these voices seem to say that in the slave South, whites were not overwhelmingly concerned about such liaisons, beyond the racial and legal status of the children that were produced. Only with the advent of black freedom did the issue move beyond neighborhood dramas and into the arena of politics, becoming a much more serious taboo than it had ever been before. Hodes gives vivid examples of the violence that followed the upheaval of war, when black men and white women were targeted by the Ku Klux Klan and unprecedented white rage and terrorism against such liaisons began to erupt. An era of terror and lynchings was inaugurated, and the legacy of these sexual politics lingered well into the twentieth century.

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