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  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Marketus Presswood: On Being Black in China

    Marketus Presswood is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Modern Chinese History with an emphasis on both the Republican Era (1912-1949) and the post-1949 era.In the 1996 China edition of the Lonely Planet's Guidebook, a text box aside comment from a street interview provided some interesting conversation fodder, "... there is no racism in China because there are no black people," a Chinese woman was reported to have said. This became a little running joke in my small study abroad circle, since I was the only black student in my program of fifty students. It was 1997, and I was in Beijing studying Chinese. "There is no way you could be experiencing any racism in China," one classmate sardonically told me, "because you are the only black person here." We all laughed.

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    The Truth Behind '40 Acres and a Mule'

    We've all heard the story of the "40 acres and a mule" promise to former slaves. It's a staple of black history lessons, and it's the name of Spike Lee's film company. The promise was the first systematic attempt to provide a form of reparations to newly freed slaves, and it was astonishingly radical for its time, proto-socialist in its implications. In fact, such a policy would be radical in any country today: the federal government's massive confiscation of private property -- some 400,000 acres -- formerly owned by Confederate land owners, and its methodical redistribution to former black slaves. What most of us haven't heard is that the idea really was generated by black leaders themselves....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Who Really Ran the Underground Railroad?

    One of the genuine pleasures of teaching African-American Studies today is the satisfaction of being able to restore to the historical record "lost" events and the individuals whose sacrifices and bravery created those events, never to be lost again. Few institutions from the black past have attracted more attention recently from teachers, students, museum curators and the tourism industry than the Underground Railroad, one of the most venerable and philanthropic innovations in our ancestors' long and dreadful history in human bondage. But in the zeal to tell the story of this great institution, legend and lore have sometimes overwhelmed historical facts. Separating fact from fiction -- always an essential part of telling it like it really was -- has required a great deal of effort from a number of scholars. Doing so only makes the sacrifices and heroism of our ancestors and their allies all the more noble, heroic and impressive....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    Rosa Parks statue set to be unveiled at Capitol

    Rosa Parks is famous for her 1955 refusal to give up her seat on a city bus in Alabama to a white man, but there's plenty about the rest of her experiences that she deliberately withheld from her family.  While Parks and her husband, Raymond, were childless, her brother, the late Sylvester McCauley, had 13 children. They decided Parks' nieces and nephews didn't need to know the horrible details surrounding her civil rights activism, said Rhea McCauley, Parks' niece....

  • Originally published 02/19/2013

    Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story

    Pittsburgh’s Hill District, or “The Hill” as it is locally known, was the heart of the city’s African-American community during the twentieth century.  As a freelancer, newspaper man, and portrait studio owner Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–1998) lovingly captured his community’s vibrant cultural, economic, and political life through nearly 80,000 photographs. These pictures tell much more than just a local story.... 

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