This is the first full history of Operation Breadbasket, the interfaith economic justice program that transformed into Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH (now the Rainbow PUSH Coalition). Begun by Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement, Breadbasket was directed by Jackson. Author Martin L. Deppe was one of Breadbasket’s founding pastors. He digs deeply into the program’s past to update the meager narrative about Breadbasket, add details to King’s and Jackson’s roles, and tell Breadbasket’s little-known story. Under the motto “Your Ministers Fight for Jobs and Rights,” the program put bread on the tables of the city’s African American families in the form of steady jobs. Deppe details how Breadbasket used the power of the pulpit to persuade businesses that sought black dollars to also employ a fair share of blacks. Though they favored negotiations, Breadbasket pastors also organized effective boycotts, as they did after one manager declared that he was “not about to let Negro preachers tell him what to do.” Over six years, Breadbasket’s efforts netted forty-five hundred jobs and sharply increased commerce involving black-owned businesses. Economic gains on Chicago’s South Side amounted to $57.5 million annually by 1971. Deppe traces Breadbasket’s history from its early “Don’t Buy” campaigns through a string of achievements related to black employment and black-owned products, services, and businesses. To the emerging call for black power, Breadbasket offered a program that actually empowered the black community, helping it engage the mainstream economic powers on an equal footing. Deppe recounts plans for Breadbasket’s national expansion; its sponsored business expos; and the Saturday Breadbasket gatherings, a hugely popular black-pride forum. Deppe shows how the program evolved in response to growing pains, changing alliances, and the King assassination. Breadbasket’s rich history, as told here, offers a still-viable model for attaining economic justice today.
Historical accounts of racial discrimination in transportation have focused until now on trains, buses, and streetcars and their respective depots, terminals, stops, and other public accommodations. It is essential to add airplanes and airports to this narrative, says Anke Ortlepp. Air travel stands at the center of the twentieth century’s transportation revolution, and airports embodied the rapidly mobilizing, increasingly prosperous, and cosmopolitan character of the postwar United States. When segregationists inscribed local definitions of whiteness and blackness onto sites of interstate and even international transit, they not only brought the incongruities of racial separation into sharp relief but also obligated the federal government to intervene. Ortlepp looks at African American passengers; civil rights organizations; the federal government and judiciary; and airport planners, architects, and managers as actors in shaping aviation’s legal, cultural, and built environments. She relates the struggles of black travelers—to enjoy the same freedoms on the airport grounds that they enjoyed in the aircraft cabin—in the context of larger shifts in the postwar social, economic, and political order. Jim Crow terminals, Ortlepp shows us, were both spatial expressions of segregation and sites of confrontation over the re-negotiation of racial identities. Hence, this new study situates itself in the scholarly debate over the multifaceted entanglements of “race” and “space.”
This wide-ranging interdisciplinary collection—the first of its kind—invites us to reconsider the politics and scope of the Roots phenomenon of the 1970s. Alex Haley’s 1976 book was a publishing sensation, selling over a million copies in its first year and winning a National Book Award and a special Pulitzer Prize. The 1977 television adaptation was more than a blockbuster miniseries—it was a galvanizing national event, drawing a record-shattering viewership, earning thirty-eight Emmy nominations, and changing overnight the discourse on race, civil rights, and slavery. These essays—from emerging and established scholars in history, sociology, film, and media studies—interrogate Roots, assessing the ways that the book and its dramatization recast representations of slavery, labor, and the black family; reflected on the promise of freedom and civil rights; and engaged discourses of race, gender, violence, and power in the United States and abroad. Taken together, the essays ask us to reconsider the limitations and possibilities of this work, which, although dogged by controversy, must be understood as one of the most extraordinary media events of the late twentieth century, a cultural touchstone of enduring significance. Contributors: Norvella P. Carter, Warren Chalklen, Elise Chatelain, Robert K. Chester, Clare Corbould, C. Richard King, David J. Leonard, Delia Mellis, Francesca Morgan, Tyler D. Parry, Martin Stollery, Dominic Meng-Hsuan Yang, and Bhekuyise Zungu.
Former slaves, with no prior experience in electoral politics and with few economic resources or little significant social standing, created a sweeping political movement that transformed the South after the Civil War. Within a few short years after emancipation, not only were black men voting but they had elected thousands of ex-slaves to political offices. Historians have long noted the role of African American slaves in the fight for their emancipation and their many efforts to secure their freedom and citizenship, yet they have given surprisingly little attention to the system of governance that freedpeople helped to fashion. Justin Behrend argues that freedpeople created a new democracy in the Reconstruction era, replacing the oligarchic rule of slaveholders and Confederates with a grassroots democracy. Reconstructing Democracy tells this story through the experiences of ordinary people who lived in the Natchez District, a region of the Deep South where black political mobilization was very successful. Behrend shows how freedpeople set up a political system rooted in egalitarian values wherein local communities rather than powerful individuals held power and ordinary people exercised unprecedented influence in governance. In so doing, he invites us to reconsider not only our understanding of Reconstruction but also the nature and origins of democracy more broadly.
James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) exemplified the ideal of the American public intellectual as a writer, educator, songwriter, diplomat, key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and first African American executive of the NAACP. Originally published anonymously in 1912, Johnson’s novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is considered one of the foundational works of twentieth-century African American literature, and its themes and forms have been taken up by other writers, from Ralph Ellison to Teju Cole. Johnson’s novel provocatively engages with political and cultural strains still prevalent in American discourse today, and it remains in print over a century after its initial publication. New Perspectives contains fresh essays that analyze the book’s reverberations, the contexts within which it was created and received, the aesthetic and intellectual developments of its author, and its continued relevance in American literature and global culture.
First published in 1981, Murder at Broad River Bridge recounts the stunning details of the murder of Lieutenant Colonel Lemuel Penn by the Ku Klux Klan on a back-country Georgia road in 1964, nine days after the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Longtime Atlanta Constitution reporter Bill Shipp gives us, with shattering power, the true story of how a good, innocent, “uninvolved” man was killed during the Civil Rights turbulence of the mid-1960s. Penn was a decorated veteran of World War II, a United States Army Reserve officer, and an African American, killed by racist, white vigilantes as he was driving home to Washington, D.C. from Fort Benning, Georgia. Shipp recounts the details of the blind and lawless force that took Penn’s life and the sorry mask of protective patriotism it hid behind. To read Murder at Broad River Bridge is to know with deep shock that it could be dated today, tonight, tomorrow. It is a vastly moving documentary drama.
Posthuman Blackness and the Black Female Imagination examines the future-oriented visions of black subjectivity in works by contemporary black women writers, filmmakers, and musicians, including Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Julie Dash, and Janelle Monáe. In this innovative study, Kristen Lillvis supplements historically situated conceptions of blackness with imaginative projections of black futures. This theoretical approach allows her to acknowledge the importance of history without positing a purely historical origin for black identities. The authors considered in this book set their stories in the past yet use their characters, particularly women characters, to show how the potential inherent in the future can inspire black authority and resistance. Lillvis introduces the term “posthuman blackness” to describe the empowered subjectivities black women and men develop through their simultaneous existence within past, present, and future temporalities. This project draws on posthuman theory—an area of study that examines the disrupted unities between biology and technology, the self and the outer world, and, most important for this project, history and potentiality—in its readings of a variety of imaginative works, including works of historical fiction such as Gayl Jones’s Corregidora and Morrison’s Beloved. Reading neo-slave narratives through posthuman theory reveals black identity and culture as temporally flexible, based in the potential of what is to come and the history of what has occurred.
In 1942 Alice Allison Dunnigan, a sharecropper’s daughter from Kentucky, made her way to the nation’s capital and a career in journalism that eventually led her to the White House. With Alone atop the Hill, Carol McCabe Booker has condensed Dunnigan’s 1974 self-published autobiography to appeal to a general audience and has added scholarly annotations that provide historical context. Dunnigan’s dynamic story reveals her importance to the fields of journalism, women’s history, and the civil rights movement and creates a compelling portrait of a groundbreaking American. Dunnigan recounts her formative years in rural Kentucky as she struggled for a living, telling bluntly and simply what life was like in a Border State in the first half of the twentieth century. Later she takes readers to Washington, D.C., where we see her rise from a typist during World War II to a reporter. Ultimately she would become the first black female reporter accredited to the White House; authorized to travel with a U.S. president; credentialed by the House and Senate Press Galleries; accredited to the Department of State and the Supreme Court; voted into the White House Newswomen’s Association and the Women’s National Press Club; and recognized as a Washington sports reporter. A contemporary of Helen Thomas and a forerunner of Ethel Payne, Dunnigan traveled with President Truman on his coast-to-coast, whistle-stop tour; was the first reporter to query President Eisenhower about civil rights; and provided front-page coverage for more than one hundred black newspapers of virtually every race issue before the Congress, the federal courts, and the presidential administration. Here she provides an uninhibited, unembellished, and unvarnished look at the terrain, the players, and the politics in a rough-and-tumble national capital struggling to make its way through a nascent, postwar racial revolution.
The University of Georgia Press has published many books that highlight the struggles and triumphs of people of color in the U.S. and beyond. Here’s the final installment of our three-part Black History Month Reading List. Check out our first installment here and our second installment here.
“Alone Atop the Hill is a poignant and revealing account of Alice Dunnigan’s life from her childhood in rural poverty to her adulthood in education and journalism. The narrative casts valuable light on the politics of race prior to the emergence of the civil rights movement. From start to finish I was drawn into Dunnigan’s stories, both personal and political.”
—Eric Arnesen, professor of history, George Washington University
“An eyewitness to the unfolding of Dr. King’s work in Chicago and the beginning of my national leadership, Rev. Martin Deppe has written an important addition to the canon of civil rights movement literature: the history of Operation Breadbasket. It was fifty years ago that Dr. King assigned me to head Breadbasket, the economic arm of the still ongoing crusade for racial and social justice in America. Rev. Deppe was there from the beginning as a member of the steering committee. Because of the urgency of today’s issues of want and war I had almost forgotten our beginnings. Rev. Deppe, however, has reminded me and anyone else who has the pleasure of reading this wonderful book that a tree cannot grow without roots.”
—Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr.
Historical accounts of racial discrimination in transportation have focused until now on trains, buses, and streetcars and their respective depots, terminals, stops, and other public accommodations. It is essential to add airplanes and airports to this narrative, says Anke Ortlepp. Air travel stands at the center of the twentieth century’s transportation revolution, and airports embodied the rapidly mobilizing, increasingly prosperous, and cosmopolitan character of the postwar United States. When segregationists inscribed local definitions of whiteness and blackness onto sites of interstate and even international transit, they not only brought the incongruities of racial separation into sharp relief but also obligated the federal government to intervene.
“A concise, well written account . . . Shipp argues persuasively that at this time southern justice was uneven at best and that the Klan exercised enormous, often violent, influence in that area.”
“I am pleased that a rising generation of scholars more likely to know LeVar Burton as the genial and book-loving host of PBS’s Reading Rainbow than as the original Kunta Kinte is now interested in giving Roots a fresh and rigorous scholarly treatment, one that befits its importance as a cultural multiplier while also wrestling with the critiques leveled against it. . . . In doing so, they are making it possible for readers to engage Roots in a comprehensive way so that they can grapple both with the heated debates it sparked in the world of letters among historians, literary critics, and genealogists, as well as with its larger significance to the African American—and to the American—saga.”
—from the foreword by Henry Louis Gates Jr
How posthuman theory can inform black visual art, film, music, and literature
Posthuman Blackness and the Black Female Imagination examines the future-oriented visions of black subjectivity in works by contemporary black women writers, filmmakers, and musicians, including Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, Julie Dash, and Janelle Monáe. In this innovative study, Kristen Lillvis supplements historically situated conceptions of blackness with imaginative projections of black futures. This theoretical approach allows her to acknowledge the importance of history without positing a purely historical origin for black identities.
“Reconstructing Democracy deepens, elaborates and adds to a broader debate over Reconstruction, with careful argument and the patient accrual of evidence. In the meticulous work found on every page – and in the abiding devotion of the author to the idea that common people have a political history – Behrend’s work is the perfect place for scholars to begin the work of re-imagining the history of America’s most tortured historical moment.”
—Erik Mathisen, Reviews in History
“The essays are critically and theoretically diverse, matching the sheer complexity of the novel itself. . . . The collection succeeds in laying bare the necessity to reevaluate the body of Johnson’s works.”
James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) exemplified the ideal of the American public intellectual as a writer, educator, songwriter, diplomat, key figure of the Harlem Renaissance, and first African American executive of the NAACP. Originally published anonymously in 1912, Johnson’s novel The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is considered one of the foundational works of twentieth-century African American literature, and its themes and forms have been taken up by other writers, from Ralph Ellison to Teju Cole.