The Kikotan Massacre and the Arrival of the First African Slaves in 1619

Two factors overlapped to result in the genocide of the Kikotan people. Reckoning with the past is never easy. We’ve seen this in the United States and the United Kingdom this summer, as British universities grapple with their connections to the wealth and human suffering resulting from transatlantic enslavement, and Americans debate the historical meaning of the 400th anniversary of[…]

The Hidden Story of Two African American Women Looking Out from the Pages of a 19th-Century Book

A 19th-century volume contained a mystery for two historians who combined their knowledge to tell the story of the women and their contributions to American democracy. Introduction We are two historians whose work focuses on American art and on how African Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. Our two subject areas converged recently[…]

Listening to the Past: An African-American Lullaby

Both during slavery and after, the power structures of American society confined many black women to the role of caretakers of white families. My research tries to capture the sounds of the past before the advent of recorded music. I’m curious about ideas that were spoken and sung and shouted and strummed, focusing particularly on[…]

Remember the Red Summer 100 Years Later

Typical narratives about 1919’s anti-black collective violence, especially in school textbooks, often conclude abruptly. This summer marks the hundredth anniversary of 1919’s Red Summer, when, from May to November, the nation experienced ten major “race riots” that took the lives of more than 350 people, almost all black. How should the challenging but essential task[…]

The Highwaymen: Mid-20th Century Black Artists Working from the Side of the Road

The art of Florida’s Highwaymen finds a new audience. It was an era when most African Americans in Fort Pierce were relegated to working in kitchens or fields, when Jim Crow prevented them from using the same water fountains as whites, and few, if any, black artists could be found in history books. Despite the[…]

Who Were the Montford Point Marines?

Recruits in the first African-American Marine Corps trained at Montford Point, eventually ending the military’s longstanding policy of racial segregation. The year was 1941. The United States was preparing to enter World War II, and it needed recruits. But President Franklin D. Roosevelt faced a problem. Hiring discrimination based on race was still the norm[…]

Farmland Blues: The Legacy of USDA Discrimination

The history of discrimination by the United States Department of Agriculture and the class action lawsuits by black farmers. The Disopossession What happened in rural America during the quarter century after 1950 has been eclipsed by the Cold War, the civil rights movement, the war in Vietnam, and growing concern over pesticides, nuclear testing, and[…]

The USCT: Black Union Soldiers in the Civil War

The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was a branch of the United States Army founded in 1863. Introduction The United States Colored Troops (USCT) was a branch of the United States Army founded in 1863 to recruit, organize, and oversee the service of African American soldiers during the American Civil War (1861–1865). USCT regiments consisted of[…]

Inside Poor Monkey’s: One of the Last Jook Joints

Transformed in the 1950s from a sharecropper shack that was built probably in the 1920s, Poor Monkey’s Lounge is the one of the last rural jook joints in the Mississippi Delta. Overview Transformed in the 1950s from a sharecropper shack that was built probably in the 1920s, Poor Monkey’s Lounge is the one of the[…]

African and Native Americans in Colonial and Revolutionary Times

Ideas about racial and cultural identity, even among indigenous people, have changed significantly over time. Joseph Louis Cook and Pierre Bonga One such person is Joseph Louis Cook, the son of an African-American father and an Abenaki mother who had both been taken captive by the Iroquois. Cook himself was raised in the Mohawk community[…]