MSU faculty contribute to book on white privilege

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-07-09 14:46Z by Steven

MSU faculty contribute to book on white privilege

Mississippi State University

Contact: Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Two Mississippi State faculty members helped lead a literary effort examining the basis and scope of racial identity as an American social structure.

Stephen Middleton, professor of history and director for African American Studies at MSU, along with associate professor of English and African American Studies Donald Shaffer, served on the editing team for “The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity.” A University Press of Mississippi publication, the collection of essays specifically looks at the origins of white privilege and the various social, cultural, political and economic practices that underwrite its ideological influence in American society. David Roediger of the University of Kansas also was co-editor.

“This book explores an old story in American culture,” said Middleton, the project’s lead editor. “It reviews a time when we thought about ourselves in certain ways, and the two categories that defined us more than any other were ‘white’ and ‘black.’ It’s an old story of what we’ve learned about our history and what we tell ourselves.”

“Whiteness” is a socially and legally constructed category, Middleton said, woven into the American psyche over time based on the need for cheap labor. This established a power and economic structure favorable to whites that socially and legally denied access to non-whites…

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The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Communications/Media Studies, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2016-05-19 01:38Z by Steven

The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity

University Press of Mississippi
April 2016
256 pages (approx.)
6 x 9 inches
introduction, 8 b&w illustrations, bibliography, index
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496805553

Edited By:

Stephen Middleton, Professor of History and Director of African American
Mississippi State University

David R. Roediger, Foundation Professor of American Studies and History
University of Kansas

Donald M. Shaffer, Associate Professor of African American Studies and English
Mississippi State University

A critical engagement with the origins, power, and elusiveness of white privilege

Contributions by Sadhana Bery, Erica Cooper, Tim Engles, Matthew W. Hughey, Becky Thompson, Veronica T. Watson, and Robert St. Martin Westley

This volume collects interdisciplinary essays that examine the crucial intersection between whiteness as a privileged racial category and the various material practices (social, cultural, political, and economic) that undergird white ideological influence in America. In truth, the need to examine whiteness as a problem has rarely been grasped outside academic circles. The ubiquity of whiteness–its pervasive quality as an ideal that is at once omnipresent and invisible–makes it the very epitome of the mainstream in America. And yet the undeniable relationship between whiteness and inequality in this country necessitates a thorough interrogation of its formation, its representation, and its reproduction. Essays here seek to do just that work. Editors and contributors interrogate whiteness as a social construct, revealing the underpinnings of narratives that foster white skin as an ideal of beauty, intelligence, and power.

Contributors examine whiteness from several disciplinary perspectives, including history, communication, law, sociology, and literature. Its breadth and depth makes The Construction of Whiteness a refined introduction to the critical study of race for a new generation of scholars, undergraduates, and graduate students. Moreover, the interdisciplinary approach of the collection will appeal to scholars in African and African American studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, legal studies, and more. This collection delivers an important contribution to the field of whiteness studies in its multifaceted impact on American history and culture.

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Free Soldiers of Color

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2012-02-19 00:40Z by Steven

Free Soldiers of Color

The New York Times

Donald R. Shaffer, Lecturer in History
Upper Iowa University
and blogger at Civil War Emancipation

On Feb. 15, 1862, Louisiana dissolved all its militia units as part of a military reorganization law. Among the organizations disbanded was a militia unique in the Confederacy, the 1st Louisiana Native Guards. What made the New Orleans unit special was that it was composed of African-Americans.

It was natural that the only black militia regiment in the Confederacy would be found in Louisiana, and more specifically in New Orleans, which boasted French, Spanish and African roots. The Crescent City was a cosmopolitan metropolis, by far the largest in the antebellum South, with an 1860 population of over 168,000 people (in contrast, the runner-up, Charleston, S.C., had just 40,000).

A distinctive group in the diverse city was the French-speaking gens de couleur libre, or “free people of color.” The progeny of European men and women of African descent, this group carved out a place in Louisiana society somewhere between the white population and the more purely African-descended slaves. Their position largely was as an inheritance of French and Spanish rule in Louisiana, which exhibited greater toleration for mixed-raced persons. Indeed, many gens de couleur libre owned property (some even owned slaves), worked at skilled or professional occupations, and embraced the cultural trappings of respectable society. Yet as hard as they tried to gain acceptance as a third caste, the gens de couleur libre still found many whites hostile on account of their obvious if muted African ancestry. If their position was better than that of most Southern blacks, it was by no means equal to that of Louisiana whites…

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