Scientific research has now established that race should be understood as a social construct, not a true biological division of humanity. In Imagining Black America, Michael Wayne explores the construction and reconstruction of black America from the arrival of the first Africans in Jamestown in 1619 to Barack Obama’s reelection. Races have to be imagined into existence and constantly reimagined as circumstances change, Wayne argues, and as a consequence the boundaries of black America have historically been contested terrain.
He discusses the emergence in the nineteenth century—and the erosion, during the past two decades—of the notorious “one-drop rule.” He shows how significant periods of social transformation—emancipation, the Great Migration, the rise of the urban ghetto, and the Civil Rights Movement—raised major questions for black Americans about the defining characteristics of their racial community. And he explores how factors such as class, age, and gender have influenced perceptions of what it means to be black. Get your copy here.
In 1962, James Meredith became a civil rights hero when he enrolled as the first African American student at the University of Mississippi. Four years later, he would make the news again when he reentered Mississippi, on foot. His plan was to walk from Memphis to Jackson, leading a “March Against Fear” that would promote black voter registration and defy the entrenched racism of the region. But on the march’s second day, he was shot by a mysterious gunman, a moment captured in a harrowing and now iconic photograph.
What followed was one of the central dramas of the civil rights era. With Meredith in the hospital, the leading figures of the civil rights movement flew to Mississippi to carry on his effort. They quickly found themselves confronting southern law enforcement officials, local activists, and one another. In the span of only three weeks, Martin Luther King, Jr., narrowly escaped a vicious mob attack; protesters were teargassed by state police; Lyndon Johnson refused to intervene; and the charismatic young activist Stokely Carmichael ﬁrst led the chant that would deﬁne a new kind of civil rights movement: Black Power.
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A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana
Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles.
They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.
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