McIntosh on Yoruba Women and Work

Marjorie Keniston McIntosh.  Yoruba Women, Work, and Social Change. Bloomington  Indiana University Press, 2009

The Yoruba, one of the largest and most historically important ethnic groups in Nigeria, are noted for the economic activity, confidence, and authority of their women. Yoruba Women, Work, and Social Change traces the history of women in Yorubaland from around 1820 to 1960 and Nigerian independence. Integrating fresh material from local court records and four decades of existing scholarship, Marjorie Keniston McIntosh shows how and why women’s roles and status changed during the 19th century and the colonial era. McIntosh emphasizes connections between their duties within the household, their income-generating work, and their responsibilities in religious, cultural, social, and political contexts. She highlights the forms of patriarchy found within Yorubaland and explores the impact of Christianity, colonialism, and international capitalism. This keen and insightful work offers a unique view of Yoruba women’s initiative, adaptability, and skill at working in groups.

via University Illinois Press website.

H-Net review by Cyrelene Amoah available here.


Blight: What gives the Confederacy its staying power?

In April, when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation reviving Confederate History Month in the commonwealth, he reminded us once again of the Confederacy’s staying power. Wittingly or not, McDonnell demonstrated that historical “memory disputes” are always about the present, as he spoke in the tradition of a long line of Southern leaders beginning with the founders of the Confederacy itself.

Immediately, Civil War causation and slavery became the lightning-rod issues as McDonnell’s defense of his proclamation flashed all over American media.

“There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states,” he said. “Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.”

It involved slavery. In that throw-away phrase, the governor spoke volumes, even if he didn’t know it. To put it simply, yes, slavery was the cause of the Civil War.

via What gives the Confederacy its staying power? –

Rawick on Revolt, Labor

Rawick, George. Listening to Revolt: The Selected Writings of George Rawick. Charles H. Kerr, 2010.

Just published by Charles H. Kerr, Listening to Revolt: Selected Writings offers the first major collection of the wide-ranging and revolutionary writings of the late George Rawick, a leading figure in both radical history and Marxist sociology. Rawick was a rarity who influenced many with his contributions to African American history and to the study of white workers. His exciting scholarly and activist writings are generously represented here and put in context by David Roediger’s extensive introductory essay on Rawick’s life, thought and politics.

via Kerr Publishing Co. Website.

Editor’s Note:  Rawick is perhaps best known as editor of the multi-volume series The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (1978-1979). See also The African American Experience ($$).

Kriz on Slavery & Visual Culture in British Caribbean

Kay Dian Kriz.  Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement:
Picturing the British West Indies, 1700-1840.  Paul Mellon Centre for
Studies in British Art. New Haven  Yale University Press, 2008.

This highly original book asks new questions about paintings and prints associated with the British West Indies between 1700 and 1840, when the trade in sugar and slaves was most active and profitable. In a wide-ranging study of scientific illustrations, scenes of daily life, caricatures, and landscape imagery, Kay Dian Kriz analyzes the visual culture of refinement that accompanied the brutal process by which African slaves transformed “rude” sugar cane into pure white crystals.

In these works refinement is usually associated with the metropole, and “rudeness” with the colonies. Many artists capitalized on those characteristics of rudeness—animality, sensuality, and savagery—that increasingly became associated with all the island inhabitants. Yet other artists produced works that offered the possibility of colonial refinement, not just economic profit and sexual pleasure, thus complicating perceptions of difference between the two sides of the Atlantic.

via Yale University Press.

H-Net review by Christer Petley here.

Queloides/Keloids: Race and Racism in Cuban Contemporary Art

"When I Am Not Here, Estoy Alla" by Maria Magdalena Campos pons

Curated by Alejandro de la Fuente and Elio Rodríguez Valdés Queloides/Keloids “is an art exhibit that seeks to contribute to current debates about the persistence of racism in contemporary Cuba and elsewhere in the world.”  Twelve artists are participating as the project moves from Havana, Cuba to Pittsburgh over the course of 2010-2011 including Pedro Alvarez, Maria Magdalena Campos Pons and Rene Peña.

For more information and the official website click here.

Mitchell: Portrait or Postcard? The Controversy over a “Rare” Photograph of Slave Children

For those of us who work with historical photographs (particularly images from the nineteenth century, when the medium was still in its infancy) there are few things more thrilling than stumbling on an image we didn’t know existed. But finding and then identifying historical photographs with any certainty, particularly the subjects in them, is tricky business. Retrieving the story behind the image—who took it, of whom, and why—can often be near impossible.

So I was surprised last week to see an AP story about a “rare” photograph of slave children. The accompanying image—purportedly of two boys, either enslaved or just recently freed, from North Carolina taken in the 1860s dressed in ragged clothes, seated on a wooden barrel, posed for the camera—intrigued me for several reasons. For one, my own reading of the image was quite different from what was described in the wire article and subsequent reports (recent sleuthing by collectors supports my suspicions, as I’ll explain). Second, the eagerness to accept the authenticity of this image as a reflection of daily life in the South in this era is based on, at best, a shallow reading of the history of black children in the photography of this period. Finally, the shock the image of “slave children” seemed to give reporters and readers, and even some experts, makes it clear that the picture of antebellum slavery most people hold in their heads is an outdated one. If they imagine Southern plantations were sustained largely by the sweat and blood by enslaved adults, the work of recent historians has brought another view to light, one in which young people made up the majority of the enslaved…

Read the rest at the History News Network: Portrait or Postcard? The Controversy over a “Rare” Photograph of Slave Children.

Conservator Helps Salvage Haiti’s Cultural Material

“ANNAPOLIS, Md. AP — It is slow, deliberate, frustrating, yet fulfilling work trying to preserve a peoples culture.Vicki Lee, senior conservator at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, already has made two trips with teams of experts trying to mend Haitis cultural heritage following the devastating January earthquake, and is itching to return.

“It’s so sad,” she said in an interview at her office off Rowe Boulevard after returning from the stricken island nation about two weeks ago. “There is so much work to do. We need thousands more people to do it.”

On the other hand, the Chesapeake Beach resident and her colleagues — who have made trips to Haiti under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution and the American Institute for Conservation‘s Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) — see cause for hope.

“I think the chances for recovery are quite good, but it will take a lot of time,” said Hugh Shockey, an object conservator at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum who worked on the same team as Lee.

“To be quite honest, what gives me the most amount of hope is that the Haitians were recovering materials from the rubble rather than just throwing them out,” Mr. Shockey said. “They saved what they could. If I am going to put the pieces back together, I have to have the pieces.”

He said it is evident the Haitian people clearly value their cultural material.

“It could have all been scooped up by a bulldozer and sent on a truck to be dumped,” Mr. Shockey said….”

Read the rest at the  Washington Times.

Stanley on Slave Marriage

Caption, "The color-sergeant of the 1st South Carolina (Colored) addressing the regiment after having been presented with the Stars and Strips, at Smith's plantation, Port Royal, January 1." Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper (Jan. 24, 1863), vol. 15, p. 276. (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-88808), as shown on, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

Stanley, Amy Dru. “Instead of Waiting for the Thirteenth Amendment: The War Power, Slave Marriage, and Inviolate Human Rights.” American Historical Review 115 (June 2010): 732-765.

Partial Paragraph Steal:

“One decree became the Thirteenth Amendment; all but forgotten is the other, a congressional act to “encourage Enlistments” in the Union Army. The amendment provided for abolishing slavery everywhere in the United States and its territories. The enlistment measure freed soldiers’ wives and children owned by masters in the loyal border states exempt from the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. As destroying slavery became inseparable from vanquishing the South, bondsmen refused to go to war unless, in exchange, they won their families’ freedom as well as their own….”

Read at Chicago Journals ($$)

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