Ira Berlin (1941-2018)

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VIDEO: Scholars on History, Slavery, and Defining Black America

Historians and scholars discuss who is considered ‘black’ in America. In the video: Ira Berlin, Elsa Barkley Brown, Tiya Miles, Dylan Penningroth, and Deborah Gray White. May 20, 2016.

Video below:

Continue reading “VIDEO: Scholars on History, Slavery, and Defining Black America”

Grandin, O’Malley, Ferrer, Berlin, and 12 Years a Slave Win Awards from the American Historical Association

Los Angeles, CA. NOVEMBER 10, 2013--Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor talk about his current movie and Oscar contending role. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.)
Los Angeles, CA. NOVEMBER 10, 2013–Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor talk about his current movie and Oscar contending role. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.)

The American Historical Association has awarded Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave the John E. O’Conner Film Award for “outstanding interpretations of history through film” in the category of “Dramatic Feature.”

A second film about slavery, Ghosts of Amistad: In the Footsteps of the Rebels, directed by Tony Buba and produced by Marcus Rediker, won for “Documentary.”

Other winners include:

Continue reading “Grandin, O’Malley, Ferrer, Berlin, and 12 Years a Slave Win Awards from the American Historical Association”

BOOK: Mintz & Stauffer, et. al. on the Problem of Evil & Slavery

Mintz, Steven, and John Stauffer. The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, And the Ambiguities of American Reform. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.

From the University of Massachusetts Press website:

Leading scholars explore the moral dimension of American history

A collective effort to present a new kind of moral history, this volume seeks to show how the study of the past can illuminate profound ethical and philosophical issues. More specifically, the contributors address a variety of questions raised by the history of American slavery. How did freedom—personal, civic, and political—become one of the most cherished values in the Western world? How has the language of slavery been applied to other instances of exploitation and depersonalization? To what extent is America’s high homicide rate a legacy of slavery? Did the abolitionist movement’s tendency to view slavery as a product of sin, rather than as a structural and economic problem, accelerate or impede emancipation?

Divided into four parts, with introductions to each section by editors Steven Mintz and John Stauffer, the essays provide succinct guides to the evolution of American slavery, the origins of antislavery thought, the challenges of emancipation, and the post-emancipation legacy of slavery. They also offer fresh perspectives on key individuals, from Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass to Harriet Jacobs and John Brown, and shed new light on the differences between female and male critiques of slavery, the defense of slavery by the South’s intellectual elite, and Catholic attitudes toward slavery and abolition.

Above all, The Problem of Evil helps us understand the circumstances that allow social evils to happen, how intelligent and ostensibly moral people can participate in the most horrendous crimes, and how, at certain historical moments, some individuals are able to rise above their circumstances, address evil in fundamental ways, and expand our moral consciousness.

Jacqueline Jones on Berlin’s The Making of African America

“Ira Berlin begins this book by recounting a conversation he had several years ago with a small group of black radio technicians, most of them recent immigrants born in Africa or the Caribbean. He had just been interviewed on a local public radio station on the topic “Who freed the slaves?” Berlin had argued that enslaved Southerners played a significant role in their own liberation. He found that the technicians were “deeply interested” in the events leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; yet he was troubled by the fact that they felt these events “had nothing to do with them. Simply put, it was not their history….”

Read the rest at Slate.

Boston Globe Reviews Berlin’s The Making of African America

“After the death of John Hope Franklin last year, tributes to the distinguished historian cascaded down. A major newspaper in North Carolina declared that Franklin, who retired from Duke University, “gave definition to the African-American experience.” That was a slight exaggeration, overlooking as it did predecessors such as Carter G. Woodson, creator of what has become Black History Month, but the statement was not off much. Franklin’s 1947 classic, “From Slavery to Freedom,” is deservedly credited with setting forth the master narrative of black people in America….”

Read the rest

Charles F. Irons reviews Gabor Boritt and Scott Hancock’s Slavery, Resistance, Freedom (2007)

“Gabor Boritt and Scott Hancock, editors of Slavery, Resistance, Freedom, have combined under one cover six fine essays that illustrate ways in which African Americans shaped the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The slim volume is a fine capstone to a generation of scholarship in which historians have come to understand black Americans as central actors in the sectional conflict. Indeed, the contributors so effectively elaborate the extent of African American agency on the plantation, at war, and in politics that they highlight the interpretive limits of the current scholarly consensus. As Hancock writes in the introduction, the collection highlights “the rich diversity of African Americans’ experiences with and responses to freedom and slavery in the Civil War era.” He also makes clear, however, that the collection attends primarily to those “black people, both slave and free,” who “resisted all kinds of exploitation and degradation” (p. xviii). There is no room within the rich diversity of experience, in other words, for black Americans who decided against active resistance….”

Read the rest via H-Net Reviews.

U.S. Senate Apologizes for Slavery

On Thursday, June 18, 2009, the United States Senate passed a non-binding resolution apologizing to African-Americans for the wrongs of slavery.   The resolution did not offer reparations.

via Faculty Lounge:

This follows on the heels of the Brown University’s Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, which issued its report in 2006, as well as several state apologies for slavery in 2007.  I’ve already expressed surprise that academics weren’t more involved in the state slavery apologies, so it should come as no surprise that they seem to have been absent from the discussion in the Senate.  The University of Virginia also apologized for its connections to slavery, in April 2007.  UVA had been talking about an apologyfor some time.  (And back in 2007 when the Virginia legislature was contemplating an apology for slavery, I had some thoughts over at diverse education’s website.)
So let me look into the crystal ball and ask, what next?  We’ve been following the latest talk at William and Mary about its study of slavery on its campus.  And the University of Maryland’s been conducting a year-long study of slavery in its campus, under the direction of distinguished historian Ira Berlin.  Perhaps some other schools will conduct similar investigations, I’m not sure.  We may hear something about this from places like Randolph Macon College, the University of Georgia, Ole Miss, or Transylvania (four schools that figure in University, Court, and Slave.)….
Read the rest and the full text of the resolution here.

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