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About Keisha N. Blain
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In 1932, Mittie Maude Lena Gordon spoke to a crowd of black Chicagoans at the old Jack Johnson boxing ring, rallying their support for emigration to West Africa. In 1937, Celia Jane Allen traveled to Jim Crow Mississippi to organize rural black workers around black nationalist causes. In the late 1940s, from her home in Kingston, Jamaica, Amy Jacques Garvey launched an extensive letter-writing campaign to defend the Greater Liberia Bill, which would relocate 13 million black Americans to West Africa.
Gordon, Allen, and Jacques Garvey—as well as Maymie De Mena, Ethel Collins, Amy Ashwood, and Ethel Waddell—are part of an overlooked and understudied group of black women who take center stage in Set the World on Fire, the first book to examine how black nationalist women engaged in national and global politics from the early twentieth century to the 1960s. Historians of the era generally portray the period between the Garvey movement of the 1920s and the Black Power movement of the 1960s as one of declining black nationalist activism, but Keisha N. Blain reframes the Great Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War as significant eras of black nationalist—and particularly, black nationalist women's—ferment.
In Chicago, Harlem, and the Mississippi Delta, from Britain to Jamaica, these women built alliances with people of color around the globe, agitating for the rights and liberation of black people in the United States and across the African diaspora. As pragmatic activists, they employed multiple protest strategies and tactics, combined numerous religious and political ideologies, and forged unlikely alliances in their struggles for freedom. Drawing on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs, and poetry, Set the World on Fire highlights the flexibility, adaptability, and experimentation of black women leaders who demanded equal recognition and participation in global civil society.
The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.
Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.
This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.
The book examines four central themes within the black intellectual tradition: black internationalism, religion and spirituality, racial politics and struggles for social justice, and black radicalism. The essays identify the emergence of black thought within multiple communities internationally, analyze how black thinkers shaped and were shaped by the historical moment in which they lived, interrogate the ways in which activists and intellectuals connected their theoretical frameworks across time and space, and assess how these strains of thought bolstered black consciousness and resistance worldwide.
Defying traditional temporal and geographical boundaries, New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition illuminates the origins of and conduits for black ideas, redefines the relationship between black thought and social action, and challenges long-held assumptions about black perspectives on religion, race, and radicalism. The intellectuals profiled in the volume reshape and redefine the contours and boundaries of black thought, further illuminating the depth and diversity of the black intellectual tradition.
Until I Am Free A manifesto for anyone committed to social justice, the book challenges us to listen to a working-poor Black woman activist and theorist from the past as we grapple with contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice. Hamer's ideas and fearless activism reveal how we all, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ability, economic status, or educational background, have the power to transform society.
Born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was a force to be reckoned with. The youngest of twenty children, she was the granddaughter of enslaved people and worked as a sharecropper before dedicating herself to activism. Working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), assisting with Black voter registration, and serving as vice chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party--which challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation at the Democratic National Convention--Hamer fought for her community.
In 1964, Hamer ran an unsuccessful bid for Congress but her compelling televised speech before the DNC's credentials committee was delivered before millions, and addressed two central issues that remain relevant: voter suppression and state-sanctioned violence. Hamer described the scare tactics and violence she and other African Americans experienced and their lack of access to the vote. Throughout her life, Hamer fought for Black voting rights, social justice, women's empowerment, and economic rights.