Tag Archives: African American History

New Releases in African American Studies

In honor of Black History Month, we’re featuring our favorite new releases in the fields of Civil Rights history and African American studies. Which ones will you read?


untitledFaith in Black Power: Religion, Race, and Resistance in Cairo, Illinois

In 1969, nineteen-year-old Robert Hunt was found dead in the Cairo, Illinois, police station. The white authorities ruled the death a suicide, but many members of the African American community believed that Hunt had been murdered—a sentiment that sparked rebellions and protests across the city.

In this vital reassessment of the impact of religion on the black power movement, Kerry Pimblott presents a nuanced discussion of the ways in which black churches supported and shaped the United Front. She deftly challenges conventional narratives of the de-Christianization of the movement, revealing that Cairoites embraced both old-time religion and revolutionary thought. Pimblott also investigates the impact of female leaders on the organization and their influence on young activists, offering new perspectives on the hypermasculine image of black power.

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untitledSelma to Saigon: The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

The civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements were the two greatest protests of twentieth-century America. The dramatic escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1965 took precedence over civil rights legislation, which had dominated White House and congressional attention during the first half of the decade. The two issues became intertwined on January 6, 1966, when the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) became the first civil rights organization to formally oppose the war, protesting the injustice of drafting African Americans to fight for the freedom of the South Vietnamese people when they were still denied basic freedoms at home.

Selma to Saigon explores the impact of the Vietnam War on the national civil rights movement. This powerful narrative illuminates the effects of the Vietnam War on the lives of leaders such as Whitney Young Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Roy Wilkins, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr., as well as other activists who faced the threat of the military draft along with race-related discrimination and violence. Providing new insights into the evolution of the civil rights movement, this book fills a significant gap in the literature about one of the most tumultuous periods in American history.

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miller_integrated_final.indd Integrated: The Lincoln Institute, Basketball, and a Vanished Tradition

In Integrated, James W. Miller explores an often-ignored aspect of America’s struggle for racial equality. He relates the story of the Lincoln Institute—an all-black high school in Shelby County, Kentucky, where students prospered both in the classroom and on the court. In 1960, the Lincoln Tigers men’s basketball team defeated three all-white schools to win the regional tournament and advance to one of Kentucky’s most popular events, the state high school basketball tournament. This proud tradition of African American schools—a celebration of their athletic achievements—was ironically destroyed by integration.

This evocative book is enriched by tales of individual courage from men who defied comfort and custom. Featuring accounts from former Lincoln Institute players, students, and teachers, Integrated not only documents the story of a fractured sports tradition but also addresses the far-reaching impact of the civil rights movement in the South.

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9780813169743Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence

On December 4, 1906, on Cornell University’s campus, seven black men founded one of the greatest and most enduring organizations in American history. Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. has brought together and shaped such esteemed men as Martin Luther King Jr., Cornel West, Thurgood Marshall, Wes Moore, W. E. B. DuBois, Roland Martin, and Paul Robeson. “Born in the shadow of slavery and on the lap of disenfranchisement,” Alpha Phi Alpha—like other black Greek-letter organizations—was founded to instill a spirit of high academic achievement and intellectualism, foster meaningful and lifelong ties, and racially uplift those brothers who would be initiated into its ranks.

In Alpha Phi Alpha, Gregory S. Parks, Stefan M. Bradley, and other contributing authors analyze the fraternity and its members’ fidelity to the founding precepts set forth in 1906. They discuss the identity established by the fraternity at its inception, the challenges of protecting the image and brand, and how the organization can identify and train future Alpha men to uphold the standards of an outstanding African American fraternity. Drawing on organizational identity theory and a diverse array of methodologies, the authors raise and answer questions that are relevant not only to Alpha Phi Alpha but to all black Greek-letter organizations.

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9780813169750Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-First Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun

For much of the twentieth century, black Greek-letter organizations (BGLOs) united individuals dedicated to excellence, fostering kinship ties, and uplifting African Americans. Despite the profound influence of BGLOs, many now question the continuing relevance of these groups, arguing that their golden age has passed. Partly because of the influence of hip-hop culture, the image of BGLOs has been unfairly reduced to a stereotype—a world of hazing and stepping without any real substance. Not only does the general public know very little about these groups, but often the members themselves do not have a deep understanding of their history and culture or of the issues facing their organizations.

Gregory S. Parks has assembled an impressive group of contributors to show that the BGLOs’ most important work lies ahead. Black Greek-letter Organizations in the Twenty-first Century: Our Fight Has Just Begun provides historical context for the development of BGLOs and explores their service activities as well as their relationships with other prominent African American institutions. The book examines BGLOs’ responses to a number of contemporary issues, including non-black membership, homosexuality within membership, and the perception of BGLOs as educated gangs, in order to demonstrate that these organizations can create a positive and enduring future.

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Visit our website to explore more titles in our series, Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century.

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African Americans and the Kentucky Derby: A Long and Storied History

African American Jockeys Kentucky Derby

Jimmy Winkfield rides Alan-a-Dale in the Kentucky Derby in 1902.

“Today will be historic in Kentucky annals as the first ‘Derby Day’ of what promises to be a long series of annual turf festivities of which we confidently expect our grandchildren, a hundred years hence, to celebrate in glorious rejoicings.”—Louisville Courier-Journal, May 17, 1875

As we look forward to the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, we are reminded that it is impossible to talk about the “greatest two minutes in sports” without also talking about African American history. The two are inextricably tied. Of the fifteen riders at the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, thirteen were black, including the winning jockey, Oliver Lewis. Lewis rode Aristides to victory with the help of trainer Ansel Williamson, a former slave.

In the early days of American horse racing, many of the jockeys were slaves, who, after emancipation, continued working as trainers and riders for their former owners. Black jockeys won half of the first sixteen Derbies, and fifteen of the first twenty-eight, and most of the trainers were African American as well.

Baden Baden horse Edward D. Brown

Baden Baden was trained by Edward D. Brown, and ridden to victory by Billy Walker in the 1877 Kentucky Derby.

There was plenty of fame and fortune to be found for successful trainers and riders. At the third Kentucky Derby in 1877, the rider-trainer duo of Billy Walker and Ed “Brown Dick” Brown, guided Baden-Baden to a win. Ed Brown was one of the most successful trainers in the country and famous for his expensive suits and large bankrolls. Brown’s career in racing spanned more than 30 years as a jockey (who won the Belmont Stakes in 1870), a trainer, and as an owner. His horse, Monrovia, won the Kentucky Oaks in 1893. His filly, Etta, won in 1900. He was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 1984.

Some of the best-known names of the era were the jockeys. Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton still holds the record as the youngest-ever Kentucky Derby winner. At the age of 15, he won the 1892 Derby astride Azra. Isaac Burns Murphy was very well respected by his fellow jockeys, trainers, owners, breeders, and fans across the country. He was the first jockey to win back-to-back Kentucky Derbies. James “Jimmy” Winkfield almost eclipsed Murphy’s record in 1903, when he placed second in what would have been his third Kentucky Derby win in a row.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Winkfield was also the last African American to win the Kentucky Derby. Since 1911, when Jess Conley finished third, only three other black jockeys have ridden horses in the Derby. As James C. Nicholson writes in The Kentucky Derby:

“In fact, black riders were forced out of the sport by jealous white jockeys and bigoted owners and trainers in an increasingly racially biased American society whose court system had given official sanction to various Jim Crow laws by the end of the nineteenth century. As the Derby became increasingly popular on a national scale in the twentieth century, blacks still played indispensable roles in the lives of racehorses and the sport of horse racing. But grooms, hot-walkers, and stable hands operated far from the spotlight that would shine ever brighter on top athletes, including jockeys.”

This Saturday, as the riders take their mounts and as we celebrate the horse-trainer-jockey team who take their victory lap around the winners circle, take a moment to remember history and the men who should never be forgotten.

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This post originally appeared on our blog on April 26, 2015.

“Groundbreaking for Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden Celebrates Unsung Hero of Kentucky Racing”

Isaac Burns MurphyFinally, after many months and years of fundraising, the Isaac Burns Murphy Memorial Art Garden has broken ground on the East End of Lexington, KY. The Memorial Garden, long-planned as the downtown trailhead of the Legacy Trail which will extend some 12 miles to the Kentucky Horse Park, celebrates the achievements of jockey Isaac Burns Murphy as well as other African American contributions to the Thoroughbred industry. Located at the intersection of Third Street and Midland Avenue, where Murphy’s house once stood during the late 1800s, it is also only a few blocks away from where the Kentucky Association Race Track operated prior to the construction of Keeneland.

Read more about the Isaac Burns Murphy Memorial Art Garden, and see photos from the groundbreaking

Isaac Burns Murphy (1861–1896) was one of the most dynamic jockeys of his era. Still considered one of the finest riders of all time, Murphy was the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times, and his 44 percent win record remains unmatched. Despite his success, Murphy was pushed out of Thoroughbred racing when African American jockeys were forced off the track, and he died in obscurity.

In his book, The Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns MurphyPellom McDaniels honors a man who epitomized the rise of the black middle class. Murphy helped prove that African Americans were not only worthy of citizenship, but capable of representing the best of humanity.

The Prince of Jockeys Isaac Burns MurphyContinue for an excerpt from The Prince of Jockeys

 

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