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Civil Rights Without the Supreme Court

We’re History, November 7, 2018

2018 was a tough year for civil rights advocates at the US Supreme Court. Often in close decisions, the court repeatedly narrowed the scope of civil rights protections for consumers, workers, voters, and immigrants. As if this were not enough, the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy has turned the court even more conservative for another generation. Civil rights activists cannot count on the Supreme Court as an ally in the fight for further equality and rights protections. But this is not the first time the Supreme Court has abandoned civil rights, and when it happened in the late nineteenth century, Americans found a way to defend what the courts would not…Read More

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Black Bostonians in the 19th Century Thought the 14th Amendment Didn’t Do Enough to Protect Black Voting Rights

History News Network, July 28, 2018

July 2018 is a challenging time to celebrate the 150th birthday of the Fourteenth Amendment. Despite decades of apparent progress, the provisions of the amendment continue to be under attack. A major battleground in the war for the Fourteenth Amendment is the full and equal participation of all citizens in American democracy. This year, the US Supreme Court addressed new challenges to voting rights and representation. Justice Sonya Sotomayor made clear the urgency of the topic in her recent dissent opposing state restrictions on voting, arguing that they have an unequal impact on racial minorities. “Our democracy,” the justice wrote, “rests on the ability of all individuals, regardless of race, income, or status, to exercise their right to vote.” Echoing generations of civil rights activists, Sotomayor affirmed the importance of unrestricted suffrage as the foundation of American democracy, calling it the “most precious right that is “preservative of all rights.” 150 years ago, as African Americans themselves sought to preserve their hard won freedom they looked to the Fourteenth Amendment as the protector of their “most precious right.”...Read More


Black Women, History, and the Democratic Party

Black Perspectives, July 3, 2018

On May 30, 2018, Axios published an article announcing, “Black women feel slighted by the Democrats.” The article explains how African American female candidates, many running for the first time, are not receiving the support or recognition from the national Democratic Party. A DNC spokesperson denied the claims stating, “African-American women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, and we know we can’t take them for granted.”

Despite these pledges, Black women candidates feel unsupported by the party. Kimberly Hill Knot, a candidate for Congress from Michigan, notices that issues important to African Americans, particularly in cities, have been sidelined in the fight between moderates and progressives. As she told a reporter, “I think some of the other groups (like progressives) have gotten more attention than any racial group… I don’t hear the national party talking about an urban agenda.” The national party, these women argue, cares only about money and the ability to raise funds. “These are organizations that are meant to help make sure black interests are represented,” Alabama candidate Audri Scott Williams lamented, “and yet everybody is looking at who’s more electable based on money.” Unfortunately, these candidates’ frustration is not a recent phenomenon...Read More

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Muster, May 1, 2018

When Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, two young African American entrepreneurs, entered a Starbucks coffee shop on April 12, 2018, for a business meeting in downtown Philadelphia, neither expected to be caught in the boundary between urban public and private space. The two men arrived at the café and awaited ... Read More

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How to Escape the Graveyard of History: Remembering the Dead to Expose America’s Demons

UNC Press Blog, April 26, 2018

If you walk up the hill northeast to the right of the chapel at Woodlawn Cemetery in Everett, Massachusetts you reach the oldest part of the graveyard. On a small unlabeled and unpaved path beneath a giant oak tree sits the small weathered headstone of Edwin Garrison Walker; the name barely legible. Eroded and shrunken by age, the memorial does not do justice to the man interred beneath. Not far from Walker’s resting place are monuments to other black freedom fighters Lewis Hayden and John Rock; their graves well marked and maintained. Famous and well known for their anti-slavery activism, they are featured on the cemetery’s historical walking tour. The contrast between the well-maintained memorials of Rock and Hayden and the seemingly forgotten monument to Walker raises the question: What is at stake in privileging the commemoration of one life over another?...Read More


Race and Remembering: How a Monument to the Boston Massacre Was and Can Be So Much More

UNC Press Blog, March 16, 2018

This March, as every year, Bostonians and visitors will gather near the Old State House to view a reenactment and remember the events during the Boston Massacre. They will recall that on March 5th, 1770 British soldiers murdered five colonists, including Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American descent, and Irish sailor Patrick Carr. Some may even visit the memorial to these victims on the south-eastern side of the Boston Common off Tremont Street. Though passersby may stop and consider the surface meaning of this landmark, where black and Irish blood mixed in rebellion to British tyranny at a crucial moment, they will likely leave unaware that the monument itself was the result of a remarkable effort of interracial cooperation and solidarity...Read More