By Scott W. Stern: As the United States prepared to enter World War I in the spring of 1917, and as millions of young men gathered in dozens of military training camps across the country, federal officials were worried: these young men might get sick. They might contract pneumonia, tuberculosis, the flu, or, most terrifying of all, syphilis or gonorrhea.
For Black athletes, sports and politics have always been intertwined. Their very presence on the field is a political act. Some athletes have used their status and influence to speak out against racial injustice; others have remained silent. From legends like Paul Robeson and Jackie Robinson to current icons like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James, the heritage of Black activism within sports is deep and complex. Journalist Howard Bryant details it in full in The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.
By Bill Ayers: On April 26 and 27, we joined thousands of people from around the country and around the world at the Peace and Justice Opening in Montgomery, Alabama. Days were filled with formal and informal gatherings, reunions and new connections, the Peace and Justice Summit featuring many powerful thinkers including Elizabeth Alexander, Jelani Cobb, Ava DuVernay, and Michelle Alexander, and on the last night, the Concert for Peace and Justice. The focus of the gathering was the unveiling of two breathtaking new sites: the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Legacy Museum, both projects of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).
By Paul Ortiz: When migrant laborers, Nuyoricans, Chicana/os, Afro-Cubanos, Guatemaltecos, and immigrants from every part of earth united on May Day in 2006, they protested immigration restriction measures that threatened their families, their livelihoods, and their dignity. The testimonials featured on picket signs, in interviews, and on the Internet and other venues opened a window into the resurgence of working-class political culture. The demonstrators vigorously expressed their opposition to US House Resolution 4437.52. Latinx workers restored the age-old faith that racial capitalism had tried to drown out, that labor was the true source of the nation’s wealth.
By Eugene Grant: I didn’t learn of Benjamin Lay until I was thirty-one years old. This is important, because I myself have dwarfism. There is a shameful absence of books documenting the lives of important historical figures with dwarfism. Just as Game of Thrones and Tyrion Lannister alone cannot compensate—as many average height people seem to think he does—for centuries of ridicule and abuse, so Marcus Rediker and The Fearless Benjamin Lay cannot make up for this dearth of representation, but the book is a significant step forwards.
By Scott W. Stern: Silence was not common in the contentious chambers of the House of Representatives, but the wee hours of Friday, April 6, 1917, were different. This was an epic moment: exactly 101 years ago today, the representatives were voting on war. Beginning at 2:45 am, as the clerk of the House called each member’s name, one after the other, scarcely a sound broke the tense stillness, except representatives calling “Aye” or “Nay.” Their votes echoed hollowly through the House’s grand galleries, filled with curious onlookers, many still finely attired from evening parties hours earlier.
By Jonathan Rosenblum: The revolutionary Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been slain twice: First, by an assassin’s bullet fifty years ago, and a second time, by the political, economic, and cultural elites of our time. They have reduced his radical teachings to gauzy notions of justice and equality, seeking to soothe their guilty consciences and hope the rest of us don’t look too closely.
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry and Jeanne Theoharis: I wrote this book, History Teaches Us to Resist: How Progressive Movements Have Succeeded in Challenging Times, because my editor, reinforced by friends and colleagues after Trump’s election, argued that the public needed reminding of how and why resistance has succeeded and or failed in the past. And I felt I could provide that based on my experience in several movements and through my historical research. Though history does not repeat itself exactly, perhaps we can learn something from history or at least be encouraged.
A Q&A with Joseph Rosenbloom: What urgent mission brought MLK to Memphis in 1968 even as he was on the verge of launching his Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC? What happened in Memphis before King was fatally shot there on April 4? Redemption answers the questions more vividly and completely than any other published account.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: As you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental ﬂight by Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magniﬁcence, I wouldn’t stop there. I would move on by Greece, and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality.
In the thirty-one hours leading up to his assassination on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was under extraordinary pressure. He was trying to redeem his reputation as a nonviolent leader of the civil rights movement after a march he’d led days earlier turned into a riot. At the same time, he was just launching his Poor People’s Campaign in Memphis, TN. Former investigative reporter Joseph Rosenbloom vividly recreates his final hours in Redemption: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last 31 Hours. While revealing the physical and emotional toll the movement was taking on King, Rosenbloom introduces us to the cast of characters surrounding him. Meet the people who played key roles in the fateful hours of our nation’s foremost civil rights leader.
By Larissa Pienkowski: As the recent Women’s March(es), #MeToo movement, and countless global strikes and walkouts have made clear, women all over the world are responding to a globally fraught climate loudly and fearlessly. Some of these women take action through grassroots organizing and direct-action tactics, and some define survivorship for themselves through the arts—and still others resist by dedicating their careers and lives to fields that have been traditionally dominated by men.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: As I came in tonight, I turned around and said to Ralph Abernathy, “They really have a great movement here in Memphis.” You are demonstrating something here that needs to be demonstrated all over our country. You are demonstrating that we can stick together and you are demonstrating that we are all tied in a single garment of destiny, and that if one black person suffers, if one black person is down, we are all down. I’ve always said that if we are to solve the tremendous problems that we face we are going to have to unite beyond the religious line, and I’m so happy to know that you have done that in this movement in a supportive role. We have Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, members of the Church of God in Christ, and members of the Church of Christ in God, we are all together, and all of the other denominations and religious bodies that I have not mentioned.
By Gayatri Patnaik: I had the very good fortune to meet Dr. Mary Frances Berry (MFB) when I was twenty-one years old and working at the University of Pennsylvania. Having recently graduated from college with one major and an excessive number of minors (three!), I was undecided about what to pursue in graduate school. I ended up in Philly, working in Penn’s history department, where, in addition to supporting the professors administratively, I was allowed to sit in on classes and lectures.
Women’s History Month not only celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women. It reminds us that history is in the making, at this very moment, as the fight for intersectional gender equity continues. We must engage with the struggle to make the just society we want a reality. To that end, we offer the following list of recommended reading from our catalog for your perusal.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: There are times, and I must confess it very honestly as many of us have to confess it as we look at contemporary developments, that I’m often disenchanted with some segments of the power structure of the labor movement. But in these moments of disenchantment, I begin to think of unions like Local 1199 and it gives me renewed courage and vigor to carry on . . . and the feeling that there are some unions left that will always maintain the radiant and vibrant idealism that brought the labor movement into being. And I would suggest that if all of labor would emulate what you have been doing over the years, our nation would be closer to victory in the ﬁght to eliminate poverty and injustice.
A Q&A with Annelise Orleck and Liz Cooke: On March 25, 2011, I stood in the Great Hall of the People in New York’s Cooper Union, where I had helped to organize the hundredth anniversary commemorations of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the disaster that killed 146 young workers and changed for a long time the way that US government agencies related to issues of workplace safety. We wanted to be sure that those who attended that day understood that while Triangle changed much for the better in the US for a long time, now workplace conditions had started to erode again, that there were still millions worldwide who worked in jobs that threatened their safety and even their lives.
By David L. Hudson, Jr.: Student activists engaged over the battle for civil rights and war protests changed the course of American history. Today, this feeling of student activism seems to be returning—its latest iteration inspired by the horrors of mass school shootings. To have their voices heard, students exercise their First Amendment freedoms of expression to speak out against a failure to change gun laws, petition government officials to amend laws, and assemble together peaceably to amplify their voices and concerns.
Black History Month is the time that connections need to be made between the ancestors of Black heritage and the living inheritors. As educator Christopher Emdin wrote on our blog, the stories of past battles should never be told as if they are over or conquered. The stories are alive and playing out today. The connections are more powerful when they’re grounded in the context of history. In the spirit of Emdin’s observations, we’re offering a list of recommending reading to bridge the past with the present.
By Martin Luther King, Jr.: We all want to be important, to surpass others, to achieve distinction, to lead the parade. Alfred Adler, the great psychoanalyst, contends that this is the dominant impulse. Sigmund Freud used to contend that sex was the dominant impulse, and Adler came with a new argument saying that this quest for recognition, this desire for attention, this desire for distinction is the basic impulse, the basic drive of human life, this drum major instinct.