Wednesday 28 February 2024

Resources for Week Nine: A Divided America



Created by Nikole Hannah Jones, who has assembled a wide assortment of historians, poets and fiction writers, The 1619 Project  is a controversial but thoughtful compendium that has shaped my own thinking in the development of these presentations. Anyone with a curious and open mind would benefit from reading essays such as on crime, medicine, music and justice to name only a few.

The Atlantic writer Adam Serwer has collected a series of essays that focus on the Trump era and reveals insightful connections from the past, the Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras. For example, he shows that Trump's incitments of violence at his rallies is not something new but resembles the photographs of whites enjoying the lynchings of Black people. 


Adam Hochshild, " History Bright and Dark," New York Review of Books, May 25, 2023. This is the cover that prefaces Hochshild's excellent review of how history can be taught, which explores the dark historical corridors of America, and from a more conservative perspective that highlights American exceptionalism while ignoring or minimizing its uglier features.

                                   Fiction and Film          

Rarely does a film based on a book excel the resource source but I think the film is exceptional. It is about a teenage girl who tries to keep her homelife in a Black community separate from her school life which is largely white private school. A tragic event makes that no longer possible as her two worlds collide. A powerful film about the difficulties that Blacks face with the police that whites are impervious about.

The following presents the title of a disturbing article and link to that article. 

Student 'slave auctions' illustrate the existence of a hidden culture of domination and subjugation in US schools

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Resources for Week Eight: Racial Reckoning


    The former mayor of New Orleans in his part memoir and part       political commentary recounts his struggle to dismantle the Confederate monuments that disfigured his city. He includes his powerful speech that went viral after they were dislodged.


Journalist, author and poet Clint Smith offers several compelling essays about former plantations, a slave site in New York, a Confederate burial suite and one essay about Senegal in Africa, the gateway for the enslaved that were dispatched to the Americas. Highly recommended.

Ty Seidule, a former senior military officer and a current history professor at West Point, grew up imbibing an idealized image of Robert E. Lee until his historical research challenged his  preconceptions. He showed great courage to often unsympathetic Southern audiences when he spoke publicly about the historical Lee, a flawed man with racist views who disdained African Americans. Highly recommended.   

King an academic, novelist and short story writer has written a unconvential overview of Indigneous North American history with no footnotes and several personal anecdotes. Yet he engages with historians and offers insightful comments on popular culture: films, television, art and novels. A natural story teller, he spices humour and wisdom into his account that vigorously challenges the settler version of history.

Two novels on the damaging effects of Residential Schools

 Indian Horse explores how one young Indigneous boy finds an outlet for his traumatic experiences in a residential school through hockey, but even as the years pass and he achieves success on the rink the ghosts of that trauma continue to haunt him. The novel was turned into a powerful film.

 Five Little Indians is a compelling novel that tracks the lives of five  adolescent survivors of a residential school as they transition to the world outside, some coping better than others.

This powerful and moving account of Derek Black's transformation from the son of a far-right white nationalist to a committed believer in a multiracial society, that must regard everyone with respect, dignity and endowed with equal rights, is one ot the most memorable books that I have read in my study of white supremacy.

Tim Wise's book, more autobiographical than his DVD, convincingly conveys how structural racism is baked into the education, justice and prison systems, as well as in housing and employment practices. An excellent companion to his DVD.

Magazine Article

The June 2014 edition of The Atlantic contains an in depth, historically grounded, article on reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates that offers the best overview of the case for reparations.

                                         Films and Television

Based on his memoir of the same name, this moving film dramatizes Bryan Stevenson's attempt to save Black men who have been sentenced to die in Alabama.

Based on Bob Zellner's autobiography, The Wrong Side
of  Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom  Movement, this film portrays how a Southern young man with family roots in the Klan became immersed in the Civil Rights movement and was regarded by whites as a race traitor. This film that has not received the attention it merits is worth seeing. 

This powerful film dramatizes how an interracial couple,
  Richard and Mildred Loving, challenged the miscegenation law in Virginia by eventally taking their case to the Supreme Court of America and winning.  

An extremely powerful film about the mother of the fourteen year old Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered in 1955 Mississippi, and channelled her grief into social activism as she sought justice for her son's killers.

This Netflix minseries is an excellent part drama, part documentary about the former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernik, who looks back on his youth and the difficulties he experienced as the adopted child of white parents. Directed by the talented Ava DuVernay.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Resources for Week Seven: Trump's Gaslighting of America

This insightful slim volume is especially relevant for our times.

 The January/February 2024 edition  of The Atlantic contains twenty-four sobering articles warning about a second Trump presidency. It also contains a moving personal essay by Tim Alberta "The Church of America."

                                    This is an excellent study of authoritarism  in which Ben-Ghiat demonstrates that the former President has much in common with his totalitarian predecessors and shares similar traits to contemparies such as Putin and Orban whome he admires


Imani Perry's South to America - part memoir
, part travelogue and part social commentary - is an excellent overview for much that we have explored in this series.

I mentioned this wonderful book in week one but it should be underscored because Maddow explores fascism in America during the 1930s and 1940s in America  and the book serves as a warning for what could happen in the near future. What she also highlights is how ordinary people challenged this dangerous movement.

I do not usually recommend books that I have not yet read but I will make an exception for these two books written by two conservatives who have challenged the former president when so many Republicans have been unwilling. 


Sunday 4 February 2024

Week Six: Resources on the Responses to Civil Rights


                  Documentaries and Feature Films

 Some students in the program have asked me about the Civil Rights Tour that I travelled with last year. Below is the website. I  noticed that only the new tour "From Slavery to the Civil Rights Movement" is advertised at this point not the original civil rights tour. I think that is the case because that tour is currently taking place. I expect in the near future that the Nation will be advertising that trip.

These two feature films are valuable because the first focuses King at the centre at the effort to achieve the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the more recent drama portrays Bayard Ruskin as the architect of the 1963 March on Washington whose energy and organizational skills made that historical event happen. 

A stirring film about the life of the remarkable John Lewis

                 Tim Wise offers a compelling portrait of                                               white privilege that reveals vivid clips and insightful                            comments, a film that should be seen.                                        

Freedom Summer is a powerful documentary about the Summer of 1964 when Northern University Students travelled to Mississippi  to assist Blacks in voting registration and teach at Freedom Schools, an experience that was both rewarding and terrifying. 

Canadian Paul Salzman's compelling documenary is about what happened to him when he first visited  Mississippi in 1965 and his return forty-six years later when he engaged in a conversation before the camera with the man who assaulted him, a Klansman who was the son of the man convicted of killing Medgar Evers.

This film follows King in the last years of his life as he encounter hatred in the North and a split in the movement as many young Blacks are drawn to the Black Power Movement.


This 2022 account of the Civil Rights movement may be the best overview of that struggle, and Ricks provides a military lens to view that effort and I think it works. There is a particularly good chapter on the Summer of 1964 and the last chapter on Memphis 1968 offers some illuminating and moving passages on how so many of the movement's participants suffered from PTSD.

A memorable new biography about a giant of the Civil Rights           movement that contains fresh new material that reveals both King's strengths and his flaws. Much he writes about is new: how President
  Johnson connived with  J. Edgar Hoover in an effort to destroy         King's reputation, and the relationship between King and Malcolm X. The book also contains some moving passages, especially on the 1963 March to Washington.


A fascinating crime novel that explores the racism between the Irish and the Blacks in Boston during the busing crisis. Highly recommended.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander has become a classic as she persuasively argues that the current system of mass incarceration that disproportionally sends Black men of colour to prison  has much in common with the                                     historical  Jim Crow era.

Friday 26 January 2024

Resources for Week Five

 Responses to the Nightmare of the Jim Crow Era                                                              

                                     Motion Pictures

All three films vividly portray contentious issues of the Jim Crow era: The Great Debaters is set in a small all Black college in a small community in 1930s Texas in which several students develop formidable debating skills; Marshall is about a racial assault case in which the young Thurgood Marshall defends a Black defendant in 1940s Baltimore, and The Long Walk Home is set in 1956 Montgomery Alabama during the year-long bus boycott led by Martin Luther King in which a white woman and her Black maid decide how they will respond to the boycott. Based on a true story.


This documentary explores racism in schools, housing and jobs in Canada during the first half of the 20th century: revealing and poignant.

A powerful documentary about a group of courageous young supporters of civil rights who risked their lives to ride throughout the South on interstate buses in 1961 to challenge unconstitional laws that banned interracial people from sitting together.

Another insightful series written and hosted by Henry Louis Gates
This earlier series by Gates spans the history of African Americans from their time in Africa to the Civil Rights movement. Everything that Gates does is enriching.


This powerful film is based on the book Unexampled Courage; I highly recommend both the book and the film.  

This powerful book examines the difficult long-term relationship between Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan, her tormentor who is behind her in the iconic 1957 photograph. The book also reveals the difficult life that Eckford experienced as a result of her decision to be one of the Little Rock Nine to desegegrate the local high school.

A wonderful, inspiring memoir about a young girl who was born into a poor sharecropper's family and yet eventually became a University President. 

Wednesday 24 January 2024

 Suggested material for Week Four on the power of the Lost Cause

Three motion pictures set out below and the PBS series Reconstruction is a good start for this week.


A PBS film that explores the controversy over Griffith's film Birth of a Nation

Canadian Paul Salzman returns to Mississippi aftter forty five years to encounter the individual who beat him up back in 1965. This excellent film would also be valuable for the subsequent 
week on the nightmare of Jim Crow

The first major television series to challenge the Lost Cause

Three articles worth reading are "Mildred Rutherford's War" in The  New York Review of Books, Dec. 7, 2023 and "Here's the Civil War  They Don't Want You Know," in The Washington Post, Dec.20, 2023
and "Kennedy and the Lost Cause," in The Atlantic, Dec. 2023.

Clint Smith, poet, scholar and writer for The Atlantic has written a series of essays about sites throughout America that examines how they are currently dealing with the racial cultural changes of recent years. In one of them, a Confederate cemetary he listens to Sons of Confederates who insist that messages that they learned over the years about the nobility and rightness of the Lost Cause are important to preserve. Smith rightly remains sceptical. This is a fascinating book.