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Dear History Cranks and Fiends,
Thank you for helping me celebrate the paperback launch of You Never Forget Your First this month, and for supporting the scholars I featured. And thank you to Jessie Serfilippi (“Chernow Gonna Chernow”), Kelvin Parnell Jr. (“After all that, who is J. Edgar Hoover to her?”), Dr. Mary Draper (“Runaway Turtle!”), and Dr. Marcia Chatelain (“Your Favorite Prof”) for being so generous with their time and knowledge.
This week, the last in Black History month, features a mix of mediums, recent discoveries, and older favorites. But first, let’s kick things off with civil rights activist and leader Mary McLeod Bethune because, as in life, as in death, her influence can be felt everywhere.
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.”
—Mary McLeod Bethune
@emalineandthem is inspired by Emaline, curator Kimberly Annece Henderson’s paternal great-great-great grandmother, who was born into slavery. “I research and share these photos in honor of Emaline, and all the ancestors who met the same fate,” she explains on her website. “It is my way of countering the anonymity of enslavement that consumed my paternal ancestors; by unearthing the everyday historical black image.”
The feed, full of gorgeous, captivating portraits, are posted responsibly; Henderson cites the source and identifies the subjects. There are a lot of history accounts out there, but this is the gold standard, and seems part of a larger project about her family. “They first appear on the 1870 U.S. Federal Census,” Henderson writes, “and while I’ve linked their surnames to local plantations at that time, I am still conducting research into their lives during enslavement.” Here, she shows her work too: Under “Resources,” Henderson generously offers others a step-by-step starter guide to tracing your family’s history, and lists the websites you’ll need to get started.
I only discovered Mark Anthony Neal “Left of Black” a couple of years ago, but the professor of African and African American Studies at Duke has been at it since 2010. There are more than 300 episodes of the video podcast, offering a variety of nterviews with historians, artists, and writers that continually pull me out of my echo chamber. He provides a liberal arts education to viewers while teaching this historian a lot of lessons about interviewing and looking at sources from new perspectives. It’s also as simple as this: I just really like Neal!
“Seizing Freedom” has quickly become one of my favorite history podcasts. Each episode, hosted by Kidada Williams, a professor at Wayne State, combines a personal narrative with the greater story of our nation. I listened to the first episode, which followed Ambrose Headen from slavery to freedom to the founding of one of the nation’s first Black colleges, Talladega College in Alabama, on a constitutional, and plowed through until my phone died.
Four Hundred Souls is a new, bestselling anthology (an impossible combination, authors are always told) by historians Keisha N. Blain and Ibram X. Kendi. Pulitzer-prize winners Annette Gordon-Reed and Jericho Brown are among the long list of contributors who guide readers through a 400-year journey from 1619 to the present.
I can’t just list one here! Four Hundred Souls pairs well with Black Futures from curator and writer Kimberly Drew and New York Times staff writer Jenna Wortham. It’s described as “an infinite geography of possible futures,” and as I worked through the archival mix — poetry, essays, images, tweets, and memes — I realized it left me feeling much the same was @emalineandthem does. I miss visiting exhibitions, but for now, I’ve got two resources to turn to when I need to scratch that itch.
See you next week!
The weekly edition is free, but the production of history is not! Either is college. If you’re able, please donate to the HBCU Foundation, which supports historically Black colleges and universities.