Rather than posts from either our regular bloggers or guests, this week The Scholarly Kitchen is stepping off the stage to instead spotlight research and researchers writing about systemic racism from around the globe and from multiple disciplinary perspectives. As the blog of the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP), the mission of The Scholarly Kitchen is to highlight information and insights from the dynamic world of scholarly communications: research and scholarship sits at the center. We have linked to open content or reproduced where licenses allow.
Next week we will post reflections and readings about our industry. Please also read last week’s statement from the SSP Board of Directors and Co-Chairs of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, “Reaffirming our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”
Monday we featured a February 2020 issue of The BMJ on racism and medicine.
Tuesday we featured a 2017 article, “Libraries on the Frontlines.”
Wednesday we featured an article in Gizmodo, “Why are There So Few Black Physicists?”
Yesterday we featured an article from The Conversation about the deaths of Indigenous People in Police Custody.
Today we feature two historians writing in the Atlantic. Ibram X. Kendi’s essay “The American Nightmare” describes “the racial pandemic within the viral pandemic.” Kendi points to deep histories of race and public health, exemplified by Frederick Hoffman’s 1896 Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro, a key social science text of the early twentieth century:
“Nothing is more clearly shown from this investigation than that the southern black man at the time of emancipation was healthy in body and cheerful in mind,” Frederick Hoffman wrote in Race Traits and Tendencies of the American Negro. “What are the conditions thirty years after?” Hoffman concluded from “the plain language of the facts” that black Americans were better off enslaved. They are now “on the downward grade,” he wrote, headed toward “gradual extinction.”
Keisha N. Blain’s essay, “Pioneering Black Women Who Paved the Way for this Moment” calls attention to the deep history of black women’s activism:
“In the 20th-century U.S., black-nationalist women — individuals who advocated for black liberation, economic self-sufficiency, racial pride, unity, and political self-determination — emerged as key political leaders on the local, national, and even international levels. When most black women in the U.S. did not have access to the vote, these women boldly confronted the hypocrisy of white America, often drawing upon their knowledge of history. And they did so in public spaces—in mass community meetings, at local parks, and on sidewalks. These women harnessed the power of their voices, passion, and the raw authenticity of their political message to rally black people across the nation and the globe.”
Historians, including Blain and Kendi, are writing and speaking at a furious pace about the deep and critical context of racism in America. From public-facing venues like the Washington Post’s Made by History feature, which runs at least one piece a day written by historians with research expertise, and scholarly societies like the African American Intellectual History Society, whose blog Black Perspectives is featuring daily content and whose editors and bloggers are on social and other media, to traditional outlets like The Atlantic, we’re seeing historical expertise brought to bear on the most urgent issues of the day.
We’re also seeing scholars and organizations developing and sharing lists of reading and resources. Just one example is from the Schomburg Center at the New York Public Library, a Black Liberation Reading List. We will share more next week, as we turn to looking from the vantage of scholarly publishing, and more directly at our industry.
1 Thought on "We Step Aside: American Histories of Racism and Activism"
Any recommendations from the chefs and/or TSK readers (from these lists or elsewhere)? For me, one must-read from contemporary literature is Isabelle Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, which tells the story of the Great Migration out of the south between about 1920 and 1970 (through the eyes of several main characters) as millions of African Americans risked everything to escape Jim Crow society and seek better lives in the north. Another is Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, a historical fiction about the desperate grip of slavery in the pre Civil War south and the heroism of those who tried to escape and those who tried to help. Both books are Pulitzer winners—easy reads, and very impactful.