The blossoming of interest in black history since the 1950s was directly linked to the rise of Martin Luther King and the post-Second World War Civil Rights Movement. The advances achieved in desegregation and black voting rights since the 1950s suggested that this was a destination that King's children, and African Americans as a whole, would ultimately reach. In the inter-war years there were indications that some scholars were willing to examine the more depressing realities of black life, most notably in a series of academic studies on lynching. The book discusses the approach of Du Bois to the academic studies on black migrants from a sociological perspective. When African American history began to command more serious attention in the mid-1960s, the generation of historians who had had direct personal experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War began to reach the age of retirement. The book also examines the achievements of race leaders like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, the Black Power Movement and Black Nationalism of the 1960s. In a 1996 study, political scientist Robert C. Scholarly debate on the African American experience from the 1890s through to the early 1920s gathered momentum with fresh studies on the spread of racial segregation and black migration to the cities. The rise of feminism and popularity of women's history prompted academic researchers to pay attention to the issue of gender in African American history. Stereotyped depictions of African Americans in US popular culture are also discussed.
The study of black American history can, as the distinguished African American scholar John Hope Franklin has noted, be divided into four broad chronological periods. 1 In 1882 the publication of a two-volume History of the Negro Race in America by the African American author George Washington Williams is generally credited with the distinction of being ‘the first scholarly account of the history of black Americans’. 2 A minister of religion and self-trained historian, Williams also typified the first era of scholarship in AfricanAmericanhistory that
advances in human history to Anglo-Saxon inventiveness and western culture. Unsurprisingly, in these years mainstream scholars concentrated on researching the past experiences of white Americans, with AfricanAmericanhistory being perceived as an irrelevant and uninteresting backwater. Black history was largely perceived as a subject of interest only to scholars who were themselves African Americans, or white historians with some particular personal interest in the field. During the 1920s and 1930s the only notable exceptions to this rule were when the topic in question
The study of AfricanAmericanhistory, as has been noted earlier, first became a focus of interest for mainstream historians in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Previously, in the 1930s and 1940s, the subject had been seen as being of importance or interest only to black scholars. The few white historians who researched or published in the field were perceived either as eccentric, like August Meier, or driven by obsessive ideological conviction, such as the Marxist Herbert Aptheker. The historiography of the black experience for this time period has followed a
Before the 1950s mainstream scholars typically showed little interest in AfricanAmericanhistory. However, as with most general observations, there were some exceptions to the rule. This was particularly the case when incidents and events involving African Americans for some reason engaged the interest of the American public as a whole. Academic studies published on lynching during the 1920s and 1930s thus reflected heightened public awareness of the crime in these decades as a result of both the gruesome and sensationalist accounts of lynchings that
Remaking the ethnographic museum in the global contemporary
Viv Golding and Wayne Modest
, which rarely narrates a
resistance to politics, even if scholars such as Richard Sandell have tried to
push a more political approach to museum practice over the years.13 As we
write in early 2017, the Smithsonian National Museum of AfricanAmericanHistory and Culture (NMAAHC, Washington, DC) has opened its doors,
and we look forward to experiencing the fruits of the director Lonnie
Bunch’s collaborative curatorship. This opening is almost 150 years after
the founding of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
in 1858. It has taken a long time for the
prerogative of being wise after the event.
Admittedly, the fact that race relations remains a serious and high profile unresolved issue in early twenty-first-century America can be said to influence the scholarly debate on almost any aspect of AfricanAmericanhistory. At the same time the early Civil Rights Movement of the 1930s and 1940s and the black freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s are distinct past periods that can be evaluated as a whole in their own right, even if from a wider perspective they can also be viewed as but the early completed acts in a still
she was remembered. After opening with an anecdote that demonstrates
she has been conflated with an image of her hair in the American imagination,
I am remembered as a hairdo. It is humiliating because it reduces a politics of
liberation to a politics of fashion; it is humbling because such encounters with
the younger generation demonstrate the fragility and mutability of historical
images, particularly those associated with African-Americanhistory.13
More than a synecdoche, Davis’s Afro became an exemplary cultural fetish, a
fragment wrenched from
the Rev. Leon Sullivan 1922–2001’, Rolling Stone (July 2001),
pp. 87–98, quote on p. 88.
9 V.P. Franklin, ‘Pan-
African Connections, Transnational Education, Collective
Cultural Capital, and Opportunities Industrialization Centers International’, Journal of
AfricanAmericanHistory, 96:1 (2011), 44–61.
10 Dick Gregory quoted by Mike Sanger in ‘A Tribute to the Rev. Leon Sullivan 1922–
2001’, p. 95.
11 ‘The Black on GM’s Board’, Time magazine (6 September 1976), pp. 54–5.
12 L.H. Sullivan, Moving Mountains, p. 26.
13 L.H. Sullivan, Moving Mountains, p. 27.
culture underwent something of a revolution, during which the subject area became a major focus for innovative and high quality scholarship. Given that research on AfricanAmericanhistory experienced similar developments in the same period it is not surprising that research on the relationship between popular culture and the black freedom struggle also began to flourish.
The first tentative indications that times were changing came in the 1960s and, more particularly, the 1970s. The sustained civil rights protests of these years contributed to growing interest by