Book Review: From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton

Elizabeth Hinton has a produced a work that is exceedingly relevant to modern debates and useful not only to specialists but to anyone interested in the historical roots of controversial topics such as mass incarceration, the policing of urban communities, stop and frisk searches, civil asset forfeiture, and the militarisation of American police forces. Hinton makes the connections to current events explicit and displays a striking earnestness; she is not simply discussing abstract policies but also critiquing modern American society. Continue reading

Review: HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Situating Servicemen and Women: African American Soldiers during World War Two’

‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History’, HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, Northumbria University, 9 September 2016. In the third of our review series for the HOTCUS Postgraduate Conference, ‘Winning Minds and Hearts: Constructing National Identity in US History’, Jennifer O’Reilly reviews a panel featuring Rosemary Pearce (University of Nottingham) … Continue reading

The Louisiana State Penitentiary and the Limits of Prison Rodeo Photojournalism

The Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola, is the largest and oldest maximum-security prison in the United States. Situated on eighteen-thousand acres of floodplain on the banks of the Mississippi River, Angola houses approximately five-thousand men, nearly eighty percent of whom are African American and all of whom have been sentenced to over forty years in prison for mostly violent crimes. Around eighty-eight percent of Angola’s captives will die within the prison’s walls. Angola is located not only in the state with the highest incarceration rates and some of the harshest sentencing laws in the United States, but also in the nation that imprisons a higher percentage of its citizens than any country on earth.
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Book Review: Racial Realignment: The Transformation of American Liberalism, 1932-1965 by Eric Schickler

Beginning his history with Roosevelt’s election in 1932, Schickler argues that civil rights was, put simply, ‘not part of the programmatic liberal vision in the early 1930s’ (27). With African American voters generally loyal to the party of Lincoln, and with Roosevelt attempting to appease both the organized labor movements of the South and West (who were generally resistant to civil rights) and conservative northeastern business interests, it took the creation of the Congress of Industrialized Organizations (CIO) in 1935 to bring African Americans into the coalition and redefine New Deal liberalism. Continue reading

Review: ‘Civil Rights Documentary Cinema and the 1960s: Transatlantic Conversations on History, Race and Rights’

The remarkable collection of films shown throughout the conference demonstrated how documentaries could intervene in the historiography of the civil rights movement. The makers of these films, often in collaboration with historians, used their documentary films to question dominant narratives, uncover unknown stories, and expose overlooked figures in the civil rights movement. Continue reading

Book Review: This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible by Charles E. Cobb

In an interview with Dr Kenneth Clark in 1963 Malcolm X said that Martin Luther King Jr was ‘subsidised by the white man’ into making the Afro-American population of the United States ‘defenceless in the face of one of the most cruel beasts in American history. That’s this American white man.’ Malcolm’s assessment of the weakness of the civil rights movement was shared by other critics including WEB DuBois, however Charles E Cobb Jr’s work attempts to illustrate that such accusations were without foundation and incorrect. Continue reading

Listening to Rosa Parks

If all of us who are students of the black freedom struggle listen to rather than simply about Rosa Parks, writes Say Burgin, we stand to gain a much more profound understanding of racial justice, of why Parks would be a staunch supporter of Black Lives Matter today, and of why she told a group of Spelman students in 1985, ‘don’t give up and don’t say the movement is dead.’ Continue reading

Film Review: Trumbo (2015)

It would be naïve to expect a biopic to comprehensively cover the competing interests, shifting alliances and distinct beliefs among those blacklisted, greylisted, or progressive Hollywood more broadly. However, Trumbo comes to conclusions about courage and cowardice without context and, as such, its oversights are worth exploring. Part of the problem is that Trumbo seems uncomfortable with Dalton’s politics. How else to explain a film with such a curious lack of interest in its protagonist’s beliefs beyond that in the sanctity of the First Amendment? Continue reading

Book Review: Radicals In America: The U. S. Left Since The Second World War By Howard Brick and Christopher Phelps

With the apparent urgency of recent radical activities in the United States, including Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement, the publication of Radicals in America by Howard Brick and Christopher Phelps arrives at an opportune time. Continue reading

Documentary Review: The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution

Newly released documentary The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution shows a lesser-seen side of the Black Panthers that marries the stylised, swaggering interpretations of Party members with the role of J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO and the frequently overlooked Survival Programmes. Continue reading