Nicholas Guyatt’s ‘Bind Us Apart’

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2016-08-23 19:28Z by Steven

Nicholas Guyatt’s ‘Bind Us Apart’

Book Reviews
The New York Times
2016-04-29

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History
Columbia University, New York, New York

BIND US APART
How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation
By Nicholas Guyatt
Illustrated. 403 pp. Basic Books. $29.99.

Half a century ago, inspired by the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, historians embarked on an effort to identify the origins of racial segregation. C. Vann Woodward insisted that rather than existing from time immemorial, as the ruling’s opponents claimed, segregation emerged in the 1890s. Others located its genesis in Reconstruction or the pre-Civil War North.

Eventually, the debate faded. Now, Nicholas Guyatt offers a new interpretation. Segregation and its ideological justification “separate but equal,” he argues, originated in the early Republic in the efforts of “enlightened Americans” to uplift and protect Indians and African-­Americans. After trying and abandoning other policies, these reformers and policy makers concluded that only separation from whites — removal of Indians to the trans-Mississippi West and blacks to Africa — would enable these groups to enjoy their natural rights and achieve economic and cultural advancement. Thus, almost from the outset, the idea of separating the races was built into the DNA of the United States.

Guyatt, who teaches at the University of Cambridge, is the author of a well-­regarded book on the history of the idea (still very much alive today) that God has chosen this country for a special mission. In “Bind Us Apart” he addresses another theme central to our national identity: Who is an American? To find an answer he offers a detailed account of early national policies toward Indians and blacks…

…One of Guyatt’s surprising findings is how many liberals believed that the Indian population should be assimilated through intermarriage. “You will mix with us by marriage,” [Thomas] Jefferson told an Indian delegation in 1808. “We shall all be Americans.” Not all whites agreed, of course. In the 1820s “all hell broke loose” in Cornwall, Conn., when two young Indian men who arrived to study at a religious school ended up marrying local white women…

Read the entire review here.

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President Obama and the Long March

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-29 00:59Z by Steven

President Obama and the Long March

The New York Times
2016-07-28

The Editorial Board

President Obama’s speech before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia Wednesday night was, of course, an occasion to celebrate the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, his former secretary of state and the first woman to receive the presidential nomination of a major political party.

His presence on the podium was also a valedictory for an exceptional man and president who will be remembered for eloquently defending the founding precepts of the country — even as he used those precepts to expand the mandate of inclusiveness and broaden the definition of what it means to be an American.

From that standpoint, the Obama presidency has been transformative — perhaps even miraculous. But the very idea of a black man in the White House was too much to bear for white supremacists, birthers and the antigovernment militia groups that have only grown more savage over time. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, traded openly on these impulses, amping up the racism, xenophobia and religious bigotry that have poisoned public discourse in this nation.

Wednesday night’s beautiful and emotional speech came 12 years after Mr. Obama, then a Senate candidate from Illinois, delivered the keynote address at the Democratic convention in Boston that brought him into the national spotlight. As he did then, Mr. Obama laid out his personal history, the son of a black Kenyan and a white American, and sounded the theme that has been common to his orations ever since: that the progress of American history is toward the creation of one people — “out of many, one.”…

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I occupy the uneasy limbo between exploiter and exploited. I, an African-American woman, am every bit as much a “debtor” to my “race” as any descendant of John C. Calhoun’s or indeed as Georgetown University itself.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-07-24 00:35Z by Steven

I live the paradox that though my brown skin has excluded me from so called white privilege, all my life I have benefited from the plunder of privileged whites. From the time I read Thackeray’s novel “Vanity Fair” as a teenager, I have been fascinated by the character of Rhoda Swartz, the “woolly-haired mulatto from St. Kitts,” a mixed race heiress to a lucrative plantation, and real-life figures like her. Now I know why: Their stories are mine, and like them, I occupy the uneasy limbo between exploiter and exploited. I, an African-American woman, am every bit as much a “debtor” to my “race” as any descendant of John C. Calhoun’s or indeed as Georgetown University itself.

Susan Fales-Hill, “I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town,” The New York Times, July 16, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/17/opinion/sunday/i-named-my-mixed-race-daughter-for-a-slave-trading-town.html.

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I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

Posted in Articles, Biography, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-23 17:55Z by Steven

I Named My Mixed-Race Daughter for a Slave-Trading Town

The New York Times
2016-07-16

Susan Fales-Hill


An oil painting of Susan Fales-Hill’s great-great-great-grandfather hangs in her apartment in Manhattan. He turned out to be not as upstanding as she once thought. Credit Hilary Swift for The New York Times

FOR nearly 20 years, my great-great-great-grandfather’s portrait has watched over me from my red dining room wall. With his high collar, ruffled cravat and black waistcoat, Samuel Fales, 1775-1848, is the very image of the upstanding 19th-century New England gentleman. An eminent merchant and alderman of Boston, he was the founder of the family’s shipping business. I’ve known his face and taken comfort in his smile since I was a child attending Sunday lunch at my grandmother’s in the 1960s.

Samuel Fales seemed utterly unperturbed by the changes the 20th century had wrought, among them his great-great-grandson’s unorthodox choice of bride: my mother, a black Haitian-American actress, and my brother and me, his mixed-race descendants. His portrait has stood as an emblem of our family’s pride in its history. “You have relatives on both sides of your family who fought in the American Revolution,” my mother would frequently remind me.

To honor my forebears, my husband and I named our only child Bristol, after the town in Rhode Island where some of the Faleses first settled in the 17th century. A year ago, I learned through new historical research that Bristol had in fact served as a main hub of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This gave me great pause. Had I done my daughter a dreadful disservice? Upon reflection, I decided that naming a multicultural African-American after a slave port was in fact redemptive, the ultimate act of reclamation.

It never occurred to me that my family might have participated in the port’s inhumane commerce…

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Obama Faces Growing Expectations on Race and Policing

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-21 18:02Z by Steven

Obama Faces Growing Expectations on Race and Policing

The New York Times
2016-07-21

Julie Hirschfeld Davis

WASHINGTON — At the White House last week, DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist who was arrested only days before in Baton Rouge, La., for protesting police violence against African-Americans, had a lengthy list of demands for President Obama.

The president should visit Baton Rouge and other cities where black men have been killed by police officers, appoint special prosecutors to investigate the deaths and use his executive power to force changes in police departments across the country, Mr. Mckesson said.

The next day, a distraught Erica Garner, whose father, Eric Garner, was killed in 2014 by a New York City police officer who placed him in a chokehold, accosted Mr. Obama after a televised town-hall-style meeting with demands of her own. Why have no police officers been convicted or sent to jail for killing black men, and what was he doing to rid police departments of the tactical military equipment that made community protest routes resemble war zones, she asked.

As Mr. Obama responds to the latest in fatal confrontations between police officers and black men — this time followed by lethal attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge on law enforcement officers by black gunmen — he has also confronted a growing list of expectations that young black activists have placed on him…

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Obama’s Delicate Balance on Issue of Race and Policing

Posted in Articles, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, United States on 2016-07-09 18:20Z by Steven

Obama’s Delicate Balance on Issue of Race and Policing

The New York Times
2017-07-08

Mark Landler, White House Correspondent

Michael D. Shear, White House Correspondent

WARSAW — As Air Force One headed for Europe on Thursday afternoon, President Obama holed up in the plane’s office editing a Facebook post meant to express his anguish at two deadly shootings by police officers. Given what had happened, he told his aides, he didn’t think it was enough.

Wrestling with what the appropriate thing to do instead was the start of a wrenching 10 hours in which Mr. Obama would find himself whipsawed by grim events back home, forcing him to once again search for the right tone in a moment of national shock and mourning.

In that time, Mr. Obama delivered a trans-Atlantic call for racial justice after the gruesome deaths of two black men at the hands of the police, only to face the same television cameras hours later to denounce the killings of five officers by a black sniper.

For Mr. Obama, the killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul and the bloody reprisal in Dallas encapsulated the challenge he has faced throughout his presidency: how to confront a justice system that he views as tilted against the very people whom he, as the nation’s first black president, seemed singularly equipped to help…

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Charles Blow blows his horn in the New York Times

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-29 20:19Z by Steven

Charles Blow blows his horn in the New York Times

Renegade South: Histories of Unconventional Southerners
2016-06-27

Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

In today’s New York Times, opinion editor Charles Blow delivers a harsh critique of the movie, Free State of Jones, arguing that its treatment of slavery in general and the rape of slave women in particular amounts to a “genteel treatment” of the institution. Blow then turns to my book “The Free State of Jones: Mississippi’s Longest Civil War, and accuses me of using “grossly inappropriate descriptors” to characterize what in reality was rape. To demonstrate, he quotes the following passage from my book:

Through encounters with women such as Rachel, Newt knew that white men regularly crossed the color line despite laws and social taboos that forbade interracial liaisons and marriages. Rachel, light-skinned and physically attractive, was the sort of slave after whom many white men lusted. The fact that she had a white-skinned daughter announced to interested men that she had already been “initiated” into the world of interracial relations. (page 86)

With great indignation, Blow then exclaims, “Encounters? Liaisons? Initiated? Sexual relations? As long as she was a slave this was rape! Always. Period.”

I responded in the comments section of his op ed with the following:…

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White Savior, Rape and Romance?

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Mississippi, Slavery, United States on 2016-06-28 01:41Z by Steven

White Savior, Rape and Romance?

The New York Times
2016-06-27

Charles M. Blow

The movie “Free State of Jones” certainly doesn’t lack in ambition — it sprawls so that it feels like several films stitched together — but I still found it woefully lacking.

The story itself is quite interesting. It’s about Newton Knight, a white man in Mississippi during and after the Civil War, who organizes and mounts a somewhat successful rebellion against the Confederacy. He falls in love with a mixed-race slave named Rachel, and they establish a small community of racially ambiguous relatives that a book of the same title calls “white Negroes.”

It is easy to see why this story would appeal to Hollywood executives. It has a bit of everything, with eerie echoes of modern issues.

It comes in the wake of “12 Years a Slave,” at a time when slave narratives are en vogue, only this story emphasizes white heroism and centers on the ally instead of the enslaved.

It tries desperately to cast the Civil War, and specifically dissent within the Confederacy, as more a populism-versus-elitism class struggle in which poor white men were forced to fight a rich white man’s war and protect the cotton trade, rather than equally a conflict about the moral abhorrence of black slavery.

Throughout, there is the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class, with Newt himself saying at the burial of poor white characters, “somehow, some way, sometime, everybody is just somebody else’s nigger.”

And, by extension, there is the lingering suggestion of post-racialism because, as the author Victoria E. Bynum writes in the book’s preface, the relationship between Newt and Rachel “added the specter of interracial intimacy to the story.”…

Read the entire review here.

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How Jesse Williams Stole BET Awards With Speech on Racism

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, United States on 2016-06-27 18:42Z by Steven

How Jesse Williams Stole BET Awards With Speech on Racism

The New York Times
2016-06-27

Katie Rogers

Jesse Williams accepting the humanitarian award at the BET Awards on Sunday in Los Angeles. Credit Matt Sayles/Invision, via Associated Press

The BET Awards Sunday featured tributes to Prince and Muhammad Ali, and a performance by Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar. But this year, the actor Jesse Williams commanded the spotlight with an impassioned speech calling for an end to police killings, racial inequality and cultural appropriation.

His was far from the only political statement of the evening: With the words “Don’t Trump America” written on his back, the singer Usher used his performance to make a statement against Donald J. Trump. And when Taraji P. Henson, the star of “Empire,” accepted her best actress award, she also warned the audience about Mr. Trump.

Since 2009, Mr. Williams has been played the role of Dr. Jackson Avery on “Grey’s Anatomy.” When he is not working on the set of the hospital drama, Mr. Williams, a former teacher, champions causes related to civil rights. He starred in and produced “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” a documentary that premiered last month on BET. He produces Question Bridge, an art project about the experience of black men in America, and works with Sankofa, an organization dedicated to ending racial injustice.

The child of a white mother and a black father, Mr. Williams told The Guardian last October that his parents had shaped his activist roots, and said that being biracial allowed him to see both sides of a cultural divide.

“I have access to rooms and information,” he told the newspaper. “I am white and I am also black. I am invisible man in a lot of these scenarios. I know how white people talk about black people. I know how black people talk about white folks.”…

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He has been torn between America’s noble ideals of democracy and its cruel realities of race…

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2016-06-26 19:24Z by Steven

President Obama is an extraordinary figure who has done some good things in bad times, and some great things under impossible circumstances. As the first black president he has faced enormous difficulties and has had to weather a steady downpour of bad faith from the right wing and racist resistance from bigoted quarters of the country. He has been torn between America’s noble ideals of democracy and its cruel realities of race — a tension he rode into office, and one that occasionally defeated his desire to reconcile the best and worst halves of the nation he governs.

Michael Eric Dyson, “Barack Obama, the President of Black America?,” The New York Times, June 24, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/26/opinion/sunday/barack-obama-the-president-of-black-america.html.

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