Kafka’s Blues: Figurations of Racial Blackness in the Construction of an Aesthetic

Posted in Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs on 2016-06-26 19:30Z by Steven

Kafka’s Blues: Figurations of Racial Blackness in the Construction of an Aesthetic

Northwestern University Press
June 2016
184 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8101-3286-3
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8101-3285-6
E-book ISBN: 978-0-8101-3287-0

Mark Christian Thompson, Associate Professor of English
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Kafka’s Blues proves the startling thesis that many of Kafka’s major works engage in a coherent, sustained meditation on racial transformation from white European into what Kafka refers to as the “Negro” (a term he used in English). Indeed, this book demonstrates that cultural assimilation and bodily transformation in Kafka’s work are impossible without passage through a state of being “Negro.” Kafka represents this passage in various ways—from reflections on New World slavery and black music to evolutionary theory, biblical allusion, and aesthetic primitivism—each grounded in a concept of writing that is linked to the perceived congenital musicality of the “Negro,” and which is bound to his wider conception of aesthetic production. Mark Christian Thompson offers new close readings of canonical texts and undervalued letters and diary entries set in the context of the afterlife of New World slavery and in Czech and German popular culture.

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Florence Nightingale supporters in row over black rival’s new statue, claiming she is venerated based on ‘false achievements’

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2016-06-22 15:39Z by Steven

Florence Nightingale supporters in row over black rival’s new statue, claiming she is venerated based on ‘false achievements’

The Daily Mail

Martin Robinson, UK Chief Reporter

Plans to give Britain’s most famous black nurse a statue have today been blasted by Florence Nightingale fans, who say it is a ‘history hoax’ because all she did was ‘sell wine and sandwiches’ in Crimea.

Mary Seacole is set to have a £500,000 bronze unveiled in her honour at St Thomas’ Hospital in London this month – the first public memorial to celebrate the ‘black pioneer nurse’.

It will be taller than Florence Nightingale’s statue in Pall Mall and Edith Cavell’s off Trafalgar Square.

And it will be unveiled this month at St Thomas Hospital where Nightingale founded her nursing school, and Seacole has no connection to whatsoever, critics say…

…Mary Seacole is regarded as our greatest black Briton, a woman who did more to advance the cause of nursing – and race relations – than almost any other individual.

On the bloody battlefields of the Crimea, she is said to have saved the lives of countless wounded soldiers, and nursed them back to health in a clinic she paid for out of her own pocket.

But some historians have long complained that she has become almost as famous as that other nursing heroine, Florence Nightingale…

…Born in Jamaica in 1805, she was the daughter of a white Scottish officer called Grant, and a Creole woman, from whom Mary learned her ‘nursing skills’. In her early 20s, Seacole married a Jamaican merchant called Edwin Seacole and travelled with him around the Caribbean, Central America and England until his death in 1844.

Seacole then set up a ‘hotel’ in the town of Cruces in Panama, where she is reputed to have treated cholera victims.

With the outbreak of the Crimean War later that year, Seacole was determined to offer her nursing services to the British, and, when she was turned down by the authorities, she paid her way to the peninsula out of her own pocket…

Read the entire article here.

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The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici

Posted in Biography, Books, Europe, Forthcoming Media, Monographs on 2016-06-19 23:43Z by Steven

The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici

Oxford University Press
336 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN-13: 9780190612726

Catherine Fletcher, Historian, Author, AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2015

  • The first-ever biography of Alessandro de’ Medici, arguably the first black head of state
  • Draws on extensive archival research of first-hand sources
  • An accessible and dramatic retelling of Renaissance politics and rivalry

Ruler of Florence for seven bloody years, 1531 to 1537, Alessandro de’ Medici was arguably the first person of color to serve as a head of state in the Western world. Born out of wedlock to a dark-skinned maid and Lorenzo de’ Medici, he was the last legitimate heir to the line of Lorenzo the Magnificent. When Alessandro’s noble father died of syphilis, the family looked to him. Groomed for power, he carved a path through the backstabbing world of Italian politics in a time when cardinals, popes, and princes vied for wealth and advantage. By the age of nineteen, he was prince of Florence, inheritor of the legacy of the grandest dynasty of the Italian Renaissance.

Alessandro faced down family rivalry and enormous resistance from Florence’s oligarchs, who called him a womanizer-which he undoubtedly was—and a tyrant. Yet this real-life counterpart to Machiavelli’s Prince kept his grip on power until he was assassinated at the age of 26 during a late-night tryst arranged by his scheming cousins. After his death, his brief but colorful reign was criticized by those who had murdered him in a failed attempt to restore the Florentine republic. For the first time, the true story is told in The Black Prince of Florence.

Catherine Fletcher tells the riveting tale of Alessandro’s unexpected rise and spectacular fall, unraveling centuries-old mysteries, exposing forgeries, and bringing to life the epic personalities of the Medicis, Borgias, and others as they waged sordid campaigns to rise to the top. Drawing on new research and first-hand sources, this biography of a most intriguing Renaissance figure combines archival scholarship with discussions of race and class that are still relevant today.

Table of Contents

  • Family tree
  • Glossary of names
  • Timeline
  • Maps
  • A note on money
  • Prologue
  • Book One: The Bastard Son
  • Book Two: The Obedient Nephew
  • Book Three: The Prince Alone
  • Afterword: Alessandro’s Ethnicity
  • Acknowledgements
  • Bibliography
  • Notes
  • Index
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Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery on 2016-06-19 23:41Z by Steven

Intimate Bonds: Family and Slavery in the French Atlantic

University of Pennsylvania Press
August 2016
304 pages
6 x 9
6 illus.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8122-4840-1
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-8122-9306-7

Jennifer L. Palmer, Assistant Professor of History
University of Georgia

Following the stories of families who built their lives and fortunes across the Atlantic Ocean, Intimate Bonds explores how households anchored the French empire and shaped the meanings of race, slavery, and gender in the early modern period. As race-based slavery became entrenched in French laws, all household members in the French Atlantic world —regardless of their status, gender, or race—negotiated increasingly stratified legal understandings of race and gender.

Through her focus on household relationships, Jennifer L. Palmer reveals how intimacy not only led to the seemingly immutable hierarchies of the plantation system but also caused these hierarchies to collapse even before the age of Atlantic revolutions. Placing families at the center of the French Atlantic world, Palmer uses the concept of intimacy to illustrate how race, gender, and the law intersected to form a new worldview. Through analysis of personal, mercantile, and legal relationships, Intimate Bonds demonstrates that even in an era of intensifying racial stratification, slave owners and slaves, whites and people of color, men and women all adapted creatively to growing barriers, thus challenging the emerging paradigm of the nuclear family. This engagingly written history reveals that personal choices and family strategies shaped larger cultural and legal shifts in the meanings of race, slavery, family, patriarchy, and colonialism itself.

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Race in Post-War German Cinema in Drama ‘Toxi’ (Video)

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2016-06-12 21:39Z by Steven

Race in Post-War German Cinema in Drama ‘Toxi’ (Video)

April 2016


For anyone interested in foreign films, one of the most interesting periods of German filmmaking was the post war period between 1946 to the mid 1960’s.

In effect, only two types of films were being made: pure escapist film such as musicals and comedies that were designed to make the audience completely forget the ugly events of the recent past. And then there were films like “The Lost One,” “Germany Year Zero,” and “Murderers Among Us” which explicitly dealt with the aftermath of the horrors of World War II and Germany’s guilt and repercussions.

But of all the films, one of the most fascinating, and worthy of rediscovery, is the 1952 film “Toxi,” co-written and directed by Robert Stemmie, who was a major and very successful director of the period. It was one of the very few German films made then, and even now, which seriously tried to deal with race. No doubt a very touchy and controversial subject considering Germany’s Nazi “racial purity” agenda.

For years the film was very difficult to see. I first saw it a few years ago during a film series of post-war German films. However, the film was eventually remastered and released on DVD and is available from the DEFA Film Library DVD series at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The film centers around an abandoned German “occupation baby,” which was the term for children of U.S. soldiers (stationed in Germany after the war) and German women, who were abandoned by their parents. It was estimated that there were some 3000-5000 of these children, many of whom were biracial…

Read the entire article here.

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The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, was very proud of his Irish roots

Posted in Articles, Biography, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-06-04 23:57Z by Steven

The Greatest, Muhammad Ali, was very proud of his Irish roots

Irish Central

Niall O’Dowd, Founder

Muhammad Ali arrives at Turnpike Road in Ennis, County Clare, the location of the birthplace of his great grandfather Abe O’Grady, with his wife Yolanda (lonnie) right, in 2009. Photo by: Photocall Ireland/Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

The death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali at 74 from Parkinson’s will bring back many glorious memories of the greatest athlete of our times.

At his height Ali was the most graceful, talented and brilliant heavyweight boxers who ever stepped inside the ropes.

Though incapacitated by Parkinson’s in later life, he always managed to retain the star power and unique presence that always distinguishes the greatest…

…Ali was more than a boxer of course, he was a fighter who refused to become cannon fodder in the Vietnam War the greatest mistaken war America entered until the invasion of Iraq. He was also a poet, a showman, a lover of many women, a devout Muslim, simply a legend.

Ali’s stance to end the Vietnam War when he refused to be drafted cost us the best years of his sporting life. He came back still a brilliant boxer, but the man who could float like a butterfly could never quite recover that greatness.

Still the fights with Joe Frazier the” rope a dope” that saw him defeat George Foreman in Zaire in the “Rumble in the Jungle” will forever enshrine his name in history.

The astonishing fact that he had Irish roots, being descended from Abe Grady, an Irishman from Ennis, County Clare only became known later in life…

Read the entire article here.

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This web series asks black women around the world to explain what beauty means to them

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Europe, Interviews, Media Archive, United States, Videos, Women on 2016-06-04 23:46Z by Steven

This web series asks black women around the world to explain what beauty means to them


Tahirah Hairston

Courtesy of Un-Ruly

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that’s not the impression you’d get from flipping through a fashion magazine. The images we see in mainstream media every day suggest that there’s only one way to be beautiful: white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, thin body. Not only do these ideals exclude women of color altogether, but they also reinforce the troubling idea that you should change your hair, skin color, or body to be a part of the club.

But thanks to social media and the internet, there are new gatekeepers changing the conversation about what it means to be beautiful, practicing inclusive representation, and creating places to explore, talk, and educate. Antonia Opiah is one of them. In 2013, she started launched her hair blog and e-commerce site Un-ruly, which has everything from hair commentary, styling tips and recommendations for products to buy. It was in creating this website that Opiah became comfortable in her own skin and hair…

Read the entire interview here.

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The Story in My DNA

Posted in Articles, Europe, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-05-29 17:32Z by Steven

The Story in My DNA

The Huffington Post

Hope Ferguson

Like many African Americans, I grew up not knowing where I came from. There was no “old country” for us. Obviously, I knew that most slaves were brought from Central and West Africa. I heard family stories about being part Native American – that the Seminole Indians had helped slaves escape from their masters by sheltering them within their tribe. That my grandfather’s mother was half Cherokee, part Scotch-Irish, as well as African. Her long black hair and high cheekbones in the one photo I saw of her bore this out.

For a while, these stories were enough. I believed that I would only really find out, if ever, in the afterlife.

When I was 29, I moved from New York City to Argyle, N.Y., a small upstate farming town that had been settled by Scots. Since Fergusons were on the original patent, I was often asked, while interviewing people by phone as a local reporter, if I was one of the Argyle Fergusons, and I would laugh, and say no, and explain that I was African American, not Scottish.

A few years ago, at a National Association for Black Journalists conference, the company African Ancestry was doing free DNA analyses for some of the attendees as a promotion. I sat transfixed as the African ancestry of various people was teased out; and listened with amazement at how the person displayed some similar traits as their ancestral land … for example, a gift with textiles.

After that, I became more curious about my ancestry…

Read the entire article here.

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Mestizaje in the Age of Fascism: German and Q’eqchi’ Maya Interracial Unions in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive on 2016-05-20 21:30Z by Steven

Mestizaje in the Age of Fascism: German and Q’eqchi’ Maya Interracial Unions in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala

German History
Volume 34, Issue 2 (June 2016)
pages 214-236
DOI: 10.1093/gerhis/ghw017

Julie Gibbings, Assistant Professor of History
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

In contemporary Guatemala, Q’eqchi’ Mayas of German descent are reclaiming identities as ‘the improved race’ (la raza mejorada), which allows them claim both tradition and authenticity as well as racial whiteness and modernity. While surprising to contemporary observers, these identities have longer histories, rooted in the interwar period, when Guatemalan urban intellectuals and statesmen looked to German-Maya sexual unions as the racial solution to Guatemala’s failure to forge a modern and homogenous nation. Like national racial mixing (mestizaje) projects found in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, Guatemalan intellectuals in the 1920s and 1930s argued that racial mixing with Anglo-Saxons led not to racial degeneration, but—potentially—to new and more vital races. While long ignored by historical scholarship, hybrid Q’eqchi’-Germans, however, unravel a priori assumptions of German diasporic political and social insularity. By examining the potent symbolic and cultural dimensions Guatemala’s unique mestizaje project had for the formation of both German and Guatemalan nationalist projects during the rise of German National Socialism and Guatemala’s own populist dictatorship under President Jorge Ubico (1931–1944), this article argues for an understanding of German diasporas in Latin America that places them squarely in the transnational space between competing nationalisms and political agendas. By further examining the important material and social dimensions of mixed-race families, this article reveals the crucial ties Germans forged in Latin America and how who counted as German and by what measure was a subject of considerable debate with important political consequences.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Sweden: People didn’t turn on refugees; system maxed out

Posted in Europe, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Videos on 2016-05-19 01:16Z by Steven

Sweden: People didn’t turn on refugees; system maxed out

Cable News Network (CNN)

Christiane Amanpour speaks with Alice Bah Kuhnke, Swedish Minister for Culture and Democracy, about the crushing refugee crisis in Europe.

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