Black Perspectives: Our Top 15 Blog Posts in 2017

Child weaving kente (Image: Avery Segal)

In 2017, Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), continued to grow as a prominent voice within the larger dialogue on African American History. The editors have compiled the following list of our most viewed pieces in 2017 to celebrate this year’s accomplishments. The list also demonstrates Black Perspectives’s commitment to representing a range of topics and ideas, including slavery, antiracism, radical pedagogies, activism, and memory. We also want to take this opportunity to thank our contributors, our collaborators, and our readers. With more than 40 regular contributors and frequent guest writers, we will continue to advance these important discussions in 2018 and hope that you will join us

The Fallacy of 1619: Rethinking the History of Africans in Early America” by Michael Guasco

The fallacy of 1619 begins with the questions most of us reflexively ask when we consider the first documented arrival of a handful of people from Africa in a place that would one day become the United States of America. First, what was the status of the newly arrived African men and women? Were they slaves? Servants? Something else? And, second, as Winthrop Jordan wondered in the preface to his 1968 classic, White Over Black, what did the white inhabitants of Virginia think when these dark-skinned people were rowed ashore and traded for provisions? Were they shocked? Were they frightened? Did they notice these people were Black? If so, did they care?”

The History and Significance of Kente Cloth in the Black Diaspora” by James Padilioni Jr.

When Black students wear Kente stoles as a sign of their successful matriculation through higher education, they transform their bodies into living, breathing proverbs. Whether graduating from an HBCU or an PWI, each journey to commencement courses down a road hewn open through the labors of Charlotte Forten Grimké, W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and the entire cloud of Diasporic witnesses who birthed Black Studies out of their ‘(at least) “500-year conversation, in myriad languages and cultural expressions…over the meaning of loss and displacement.’”

A Case for Reparations at the University of Chicago” by Caine Jordan, Guy Emerson Mount, and Kai Parker

The University of Chicago does not exist apart from Julia Leakes and the suffering of her family—it exists because of them. Between 1848 and 1857, the labor and capital that Douglas extracted from his slaves catapulted his political career and his personal fortune. Slavery soon provided him with the financial security and economic power to donate ten acres of land (valued at over $1.2 million in today’s dollars) to start the University of Chicago in 1857. This founding endowment, drenched in the blood of enslaved African Americans, was leveraged by the University of Chicago to borrow more than $6 million dollars in today’s terms to build its Gothic campus, its institutional structures, its organizational framework, its vast donor network, and an additional $4 million endowment before 1881. In short, the University of Chicago owes it entire presence to its past with slavery.”

White Fragility, Anti-Racist Pedagogy, and the Weight of History” by Justin Gomer and Christopher F. Petrella

To accept white fragility as a diagnostic tool capable of producing a deep anti-racist pedagogy, one would also have to believe that ‘racism is little more than a behavior-based psychopathology that discloses itself in discrete manifestations of bigotry, prejudice, and misunderstanding.’ This rendering of white supremacy is harmful. Anti-racist pedagogies ought to be grounded in the intellectual history of race, not psychopathology.”

Colorism as Racism: Garvey, Du Bois and the Other Color Line” by Ibram X. Kendi

Colorism, like all forms of racism, rationalizes color inequities with racist ideas, by claiming the inequities between dark and light-skinned people are not due to discrimination against dark-skinned people, but the inferiorities of dark skinned people.”

The Critique of Racial Liberalism: An Interview with Charles W. Mills” by Neil Roberts

The case I try to make in the book is that racialized (“racial”) liberalism has been the problem rather than liberalism as such, but that it is understandably hard to appreciate this considering that the former has been the dominant form of liberalism for hundreds of years!…Liberalism as a political ideology has always been the dominant ideology in the United States, albeit too often (as just pointed out) in racialized forms. So in trying to put together a political coalition of the class- and racially-disadvantaged, liberalism—appropriately modified, of course—could provide an overarching moral/political framework acceptable to all.”

Uncovering Lisbon’s Forgotten History of Slavery” by Yesenia Barragan

In unearthing Lisbon’s forgotten history of slavery, Naky is reckoning with and rewriting the history of Lisbon’s terrifying past. Amazingly, despite over four centuries of kidnapping and black bondage, there are no real public memorials in the city that seriously grapple with the longstanding meaning and legacy of Portuguese slavery. As Naky asserted at the beginning and end of the tour, this failure to acknowledge the African history behind the making of Lisbon was nothing more than a “political choice.” Naky is right, but until then, he is powerfully taking matters into his own hands.”

On Writing the Book Proposal: An Interview with Dawn Durante” by Keisha N. Blain

Proposals can be a much more valuable tool that serve authors better when drafted well before the point of contacting an editor. I often get asked about when the right time is to be thinking about a book proposal. An author should begin crafting a proposal as soon as they are beginning to develop the book. When a scholar is preparing a proposal for a press, they must articulate key arguments, audiences, and lay out the framework and arc of the book.”

Resurrecting the Radical Pedagogy of the Black Panther Party” by Christopher F. Petrella

From mixed-age horizontal classroom relationships between student-teachers and teacher-students, to experiential and embodied learning opportunities in the local community and the prioritization of art, resistance, and service, the BPP’s pedagogy was truly at a vanguard of a burgeoning Black freedom-centered educational movement. My sincere hope is that as educators we will look to the Panthers for inspiration in our own classrooms, for, as Robin D.G. Kelley writes in Freedom Dreams, ‘The most radical ideas often grow out of a concrete intellectual engagement with the problems of aggrieved populations confronting systems of oppression.’”

Social Death and Insurgent Discourses in Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out‘” by J.T. Roane

Peele’s ur-text is slavery as social death, and cinematically he examines the intimate gendered colonization of Black bodies that made slavery and its ongoing afterlife possible and generative. The film suggests radical continuity in its conception of “black flesh as discardable” as well as the ongoing racial and gender order borne of the antebellum plantation.”

Cosmological Queerness Across the Yoruba Diaspora” by James Padilioni Jr.

The constellating topics of homosexuality and masculinity are perennial to Black American discourses. In contemporary debates, the chorus shouting loudest in defense of traditional sexual and gender expressions arises in part from a curious convergence between the Protestant Black Church and Afrocentrist conscious movements, the so-called Hoteps. Despite the Hotep contention that Black Christianity is a colonial imposition left over from white slave masters, both groups broadly share an aversion to homosexuality and gender nonconformance. They generally espouse essentialist understandings that Black men (those with male bodies) should “act like men” and Black women (those with female bodies) should “act like women.”

Black-Owned Bookstores: Anchors of the Black Power Movement” by Joshua Clark Davis

The very idea that black people needed their own bookstores drew directly on black-nationalist values of institutional and community control. In the late 1960s and ‘70s, black-owned bookstores thrived alongside other activist businesses that emerged out of the era’s social movements, including feminist storefronts, environmentalist natural food stores, and countercultural head shops that promoted the drug legalization and anti-war causes.”

The Long History of Black Women’s Exclusion in Historic Marches in Washington” by Ashley D. Farmer

The upcoming women’s march is largely a response to the recent election, contentious in no small part due to the fact that white women tipped the scales in favor of Trump. The WMW has the potential to be a unifying event if organizers and participants fully recognize that calls for solidarity often ring hollow for black women and that many black women see the recent election as the latest iteration of white feminists’ betrayal. Balanced representation is an important step in the right direction, but it must be followed up by concrete efforts to hear and address the concerns of all women. After all, true representation requires more than simply a prominent seat on the stage.”

Malcolm X and Anti-Imperialist Thought” by Russell Rickford

Political growth deepened Malcolm’s anti-imperialism. The African-American militant had long been an unsparing opponent of U.S. empire. His condemnation of America’s role abroad grew more incisive as he shed old dogmas. He devoted much of his oratory to skewering the hypocrisy of the nation that had proclaimed itself “the leader of the free world.” His critiques were designed to rouse black Americans and their prospective overseas allies, wresting them from the fog of Cold War thought and compelling them to see the world as it was. Once they had grasped the realities of U.S. hegemony, he believed, they could devise lucid programs of self-liberation in concert with revolutionary forces across the globe.”

Colin Kaepernick and the Power of Black Silent Protest” by Ameer Hassan Loggins

Kaepernick’s silence in 2017, screams in the same tone as his ancestors in 1917 parading through New York to protest the lynching of Black children, women and men in America. His silence speaks the same language as John Carlos and Tommie Smith as they stood atop the medal podium at the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City with their Black fists firmly fixed in the air. His silence, like those silently protesting before him, is in honor of all of those who were silenced for simply being born Black in America.”

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