Since at least as far back as the expansion of the Vietnam War and the lies and coverups that brought down Richard Nixon, every presidency has further centralized and strengthened executive power, producing the political conditions for our present crisis. In American Breakdown, David Bromwich provides an essential analysis of the forces in play beneath the surface of our political system. His portraits of political leaders and overarching narrative bring to life the events and machinations that have led America to a collective breakdown.
Over the last decade, award-winning historian Kathleen DuVal has revitalized the study of early America’s marginalized voices. Now, in Independence Lost, she recounts an untold story as rich and significant as that of the Founding Fathers: the history of the Revolutionary Era as experienced by slaves, American Indians, women, and British loyalists living on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Virtual Book Club: Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All
In the standard story, the suffrage crusade began in Seneca Falls in 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. But this overwhelmingly white women’s movement did not win the vote for most Black women. Securing their rights required a movement of their own. In Vanguard, historian Martha S. Jones offers a new history of African American women’s political lives in America. She recounts how they defied both racism and sexism to fight for the ballot, and how they wielded political power to secure the equality and dignity of all persons.
The second book in an experimental triptych, M Archive is a series of poetic artifacts that speculatively documents the persistence of Black life following the worldwide cataclysm we are living through now. By exploring how Black feminist theory is already after the end of the world, Alexis Pauline Gumbs reinscribes the possibilities and potentials of scholarship while demonstrating the impossibility of demarcating the lines between art, science, spirit, scholarship, and politics.
Virtual Book Club: Othello Was My Grandfather: Shakespeare, Race, and Visions of Freedom in the African Diaspora
Kim F. Hall leads a discussion of the role of Shakespeare in constructions of Blackness and race; the appropriation of Shakespeare by Black communities; the policing of canonical literature along racial lines; and the race and gender politics of the American stage and popular media. She suggests that we learn much about modern Blackness from how Afrodiasporic peoples evoke, appropriate, and contest “Shakespeare” in their quest to make legible new political Black identities.
Virtual Book Club: Madness in the City of Magnificent Intentions: A History of Race and Mental Illness in the Nation’s Capital
Martin Summers argues that assumptions about the existence of distinctive black and white psyches shaped the therapeutic and diagnostic regimes in Saint Elizabeths hospital and left a legacy of poor treatment of African American patients, even after psychiatrists had begun to reject racialist conceptions of the psyche. Yet black patients and their communities asserted their own agency and exhibited a “rights consciousness” in large and small ways, from agitating for more equal treatment to attempting to manage the therapeutic experience.
Virtual Book Club: The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots
Brenda Stevenson explores the long-simmering resentment within LA's Black community that ultimately erupted in April 1992 by focusing on a preceding event that encapsulated the city's growing racial and social polarization: the 1991 shooting of a fifteen-year old African American girl, Latasha Harlins, by a Korean grocer who suspected her of shoplifting. Stevenson provides a meticulous account of the case and its aftermath, and uses the lives of the three protagonists to explore the intertwined histories of three immigrant ethnic groups who arrived in Los Angeles in different eras: Blacks, Koreans, and Jews.
Sisters and Rebels follows the divergent paths of the Lumpkin sisters, who were “estranged and yet forever entangled” by their mutual obsession with the South. Tracing the wounds and unsung victories of the past through to the contemporary moment, Jacquelyn Dowd Hall revives a buried tradition of Southern expatriation and progressivism; explores the lost, revolutionary zeal of the early twentieth century; and muses on the fraught ties of sisterhood.
Virtual Book Club: “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination
“Most Blessed of the Patriarchs” looks to shed light on perhaps the most complex of America’s Founding Fathers. Two of the world’s leading scholars of Jefferson’s life and accomplishments, Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, join forces to fundamentally challenge much of what we think we know and help create a portrait of Jefferson that reveals some of the mystery at the heart of his character by considering his extraordinary and capacious mind and the ways in which he both embodied and resisted the dynamics of his age.
Scholar Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside the courtroom, offering a window into America in the Gilded Age.