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.
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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 Lisa Page: For some of us, racial identity is elastic. We can pass. For white, for black, for Middle Eastern. For Latinx. I am one of those people. I know what it is to assimilate to a group you identify with, because I did it myself, against my white mother’s wishes. She hated me calling myself black. For this reason, my response to The Rachel Divide, Laura Brownson’s new documentary about Rachel Dolezal, is complicated.
By Rebecca Todd Peters: On Saturday, like many people across the country, I heard the news that James Cone had passed. Serving on the Union Theological Seminary faculty for almost fifty years means that Dr. Cone literally taught generations of seminarians, and I was fortunate to be one of those folks. I still remember the first day of his systematic theology class, in the first semester of my first year of seminary. Sitting in that lecture hall in 1992, with nearly 100 students and watching him take the podium and explain to us that he was a the-o-lo-gian (in his classic, high-pitched, Southern drawl), and what that meant for him as a scholar and a black man from Arkansas, was highlight of my seminary career.
By Rita Nakashima Brock: I first met James Cone in the back seat of a car. I was teaching at a Black college in rural east Texas in 1981, and he had been invited to lecture on campus. I was invited along when Jim had to be driven to the airport, and we were introduced as he got into car. While in college and seminary in California, I had been introduced to the struggles for justice of the Black Panther Party, the United Farm Workers, and the feminist women’s self-help health movement. The early works of Cone, Mary Daly, Marianne Katopo, Nelle Morton, Paolo Friere, and Rubem Alves had shaped my orientation to theology, and I had been teaching Cone, Friere-style, in a class at the college.
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 Mary Collins: I never expected my trans son, Donald, whom I battled with over his medical decisions during his transition in high school and college, would ever agree to pen a collection of essays with me that explored our painful emotional journey—nearly failed journey—as a family.
A Q&A with Aviva Chomsky: It’s been over ten years since the first edition came out. Of course, many new things have happened over the course of those ten years, but at the same time, I feel like the debate is in some ways still stuck in some of the same misunderstandings and myths. Sometimes I hear people repeating the myths I wrote about: Immigrants take American jobs! Immigrants don’t pay taxes! They should come here the right way! And I think, Wow, why didn’t they read my book?
A Q&A with David Stovall: I’m born and raised in Chicago, and have witnessed the charter phenomenon emerge from a community-based approach to a corporate conglomerate model that is grounded in theories of deficit surrounding Black and Latino youth. From discipline policies to curriculum, it sickens me to see schools that think Black and Latino youth are to be “fixed” by aspiring to what is perceived as White, middle-class values.
By Helene Atwan: Is it only in April that we’re supposed to appreciate poetry? After all, as this April in New England is proving beyond a doubt, it is the cruelest month. But maybe that’s why we need poetry . . . Now, more than ever, we’ve discovered that we need poetry not just to delight and uplift us, but to teach us, to show us.
A Q&A with Ryan Lugalia-Hollon and Daniel Cooper: Both of us worked on Chicago’s West side for years, focusing on several different issues. But all roads eventually led us to mass incarceration. Whether we were working on housing, workforce development or youth development, we began to see how the justice system impacted all these issues. They were inextricably connected.
National Poetry Month celebrates the power of the word in verse. Condensing language to its most vivid and lyrical effect, poetry speaks straight to the heart, and in verse, poets unveil to us the unseen beauty and terror of our world. There is so much out there to enjoy, but where to start? We reached out to some of our beloved poets to ask them about their favorite poets and poetry collections.
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.
Today, on the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, we honor his legacy. We reached out to some of our authors and staff members to reflect on the impact of his global vision for social justice and his tireless work in the civil rights movement. We share their commemorative responses with you below.
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.