You don’t know Rosa Parks. Not really. Not the way you know about Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unless you have read Jeanne Theoharis’s NAACP Image Award-winning “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” you are familiar with Parks’s Cliff Notes claim to civil rights fame taught in school and not much else. Until Theoharis’s biography was published in 2013, there was no serious footnote or book about her. Let that sink in. Six decades of activism, and not a single book! And more recently, there hadn’t been a feature documentary made about her either. Until now.
Talk about an affront to human life. In a bait-and-switch tactic to push the Right’s anti-immigrant message, FL Governor Ron DeSantis paid to send 50 migrants like cattle on an airplane from San Antonio, TX, to Martha’s Vineyard, MA. The migrants were told they’d land in Boston, where they could get expedited work papers. On top of that, hundreds of thousands of people across Puerto Rico are waiting for water and power to be restored after Hurricane Fiona knocked out power lines and collapsed infrastructure with massive flooding. A rough way for Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month to start.
By Pamela D. Toler | In the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, the kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa, in what is now the Republic of Benin, employed troops of trained full-time women soldiers who fought alongside their male counterparts. The Europeans who encountered them in the eighteenth century dubbed the Dahomean soldiers “black Amazons.” The Dahomeans called them abosi (the king’s wives) or minos (our mothers).
Who’s your favorite people’s historian, and why is it Howard Zinn? He’s ours, too, and today, August 24, he would have turned one hundred. He wore many hats: social activist, professor, author, and playwright. He meant so much to us here at Beacon Press. Going through the books we published of his, including his memoir, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train,” we get a little misty eyed. To celebrate his hundredth birthday, we pulled some beloved quotes that showcase his life’s worth of wisdom and insights on hope, the politics of writing history, the power of social movements, nonviolence, class, race, education, and much more.
By Catherine Ceniza Choy | Since 2020, Asian Americans in the United States have experienced dual existential crises: anti-Asian violence and COVID-19. According to Stop AAPI Hate, nearly 11,500 hate incidents were reported to its organization between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2022. While the uptick in this violence has been connected to present-day coronavirus-related racism and xenophobia, anti-Asian violence and the association of Asian bodies with disease are not new.
Nobody wanted long COVID on our collective pandemic Bingo card, but there it is. In her “The Daily Show” interview, OG disability rights badass Judy Heumann told Trevor Noah that the likelihood of his acquiring a disability, temporary or permanent, was statistically high. He took her statement as a threat in jest, but there’s truth in that for us.
This is not the time warp we want to do again. Or ever. The conservative-majority SCOTUS wants to take us on a detour back in time when folks who aren’t straight white cis men didn’t have rights. A time when we thought of the planet as nothing more than an ashtray. A time when . . . you get the idea. Overturning Roe v Wade was the lowest of blows. Gutting the Clean Air Act stripped power from the EPA to curb greenhouse gas emissions. What’s next?
It’s raining men, and not the ones The Weather Girls sang about. They’re raining on Pride parades with violent intent. A U-Haul truckful of members from the white supremacist group, Patriot Front, was arrested before they could disrupt a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Proud Boys stormed a Drag Queen story hour at a library in San Lorenzo, CA. Baptist ministers in Idaho and Texas went viral for calling on the government to execute gay people. Cancel all the hallelujahs for them.
It’s flying graduation caps season! We’re not post-pandemic, but graduates are embarking on a world stage that looks different from what it was two or three years ago. Some of those differences are alarming.
By Kyle T. Mays | I have read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” every summer since I was sixteen; it is my favorite book. During a particularly difficult time in my life, my Advanced Placement US history teacher, Mr. K., gave me a copy of the book after trying to get me to talk to him about my situation. For reasons I don’t remember, I did not want to hear from this white man! He pulled out of his bag an original copy of “The Autobiography.”
Still kicking two years in, COVID brought out the worst from the nation’s populace: racist brutality against marginalized communities. This year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month commemorates the victims of the 2021 spa shootings as well as all other Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders lost to anti-Asian violence during the pandemic and throughout history. This violence is a form of erasure. As historian Catherine Ceniza Choy writes in her forthcoming addition to Beacon Press’s ReVisioning History series, “This positioning of Asians in opposition to American identity and experience is perhaps most powerfully expressed through the erasure of their long-standing presence in the United States and their contributions to its various industries.”
By María de los Angeles Torres | After a contentious campaign that ignited strong debate specially among Pedro Pans—Cuban children who came to the US unaccompanied in the early sixties—Governor DeSantis of Florida is poised to sign a new law effectively banning shelter for recent unaccompanied immigrant minors in the state fleeing violence in their homeland.
By James Baldwin | Let’s begin by saying that we are living through a dangerous time. Everyone in this room is in one way or another aware of that. We are in a revolutionary situation, no matter how unpopular that word has become in this country. The society in which we live is desperately menaced, not by Khrushchev, but from within. So any citizen of this country who figures himself as responsible—and particularly those of you who deal with the minds and hearts of young people—must be prepared to “go for broke.”
By Daina Ramey Berry | Good afternoon, Chairman Green, Chairwoman Waters, Vice Chair Williams and members of the Committee. It is an honor to come before this body to share my testimony on the legacies of slavery and connections to financial institutions. I have been studying this history for thirty years and I appreciate the invitation.
A Q&A with Margaret Peacock and Erik L. Peterson | Erik started collecting sources from China, including social media posts, in January 2020. Margaret had her own set of documents about how the US government was shaping the narrative surrounding the spread of the disease. And we had all this sitting on our computers. Between the two of us, we were worried (1) that we would lose sources, (2) that we would overlap what we were collecting and make each other’s work redundant, and (3) that we would be too siloed in what sources we located.
A Q&A with Margaret Peacock and Erik L. Peterson | Early in 2020, we realized we were each in the process of collecting sources from the unfolding pandemic. Erik began focusing on the unfolding epidemiology of the pandemic when it was still limited to East Asia, while Margaret was paying close attention to the ways the pandemic was playing out in global media. We realized that we could produce something exceptional if we each brought our areas of expertise to the table to write a book that attempted to cross many facets of the pandemic experience.
By Keisha N. Blain | In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a speech on the power of voting. King argued that access to the ballot would allow Black Americans to remake society without having to wait for federal support. He argued that voting was a solution for the many challenges Black Americans faced. King’s speech also addressed the 1954 Brown Decision. In the aftermath of Brown, local school districts and politicians continued to resist the attempts to desegregate schools nationwide.
By Nancy Rubin Stuart | Everyone knows Benjamin Franklin was a scientist, an inventor, and a diplomat, but did you know he also had the makings of a great romance advice columnist? The founding father was well suited to that job because of his wide experience with women. That may explain why he penned a letter in 1745 to a single man about the best way to sate his sexual impulses outside marriage. Ben’s advice? Sleep with an older woman instead of a young one.
What a difference a year makes. Book banning is back—and it’s on steroids. Is it a coincidence that it’s all the rave—more like rage—during Black History Month? The pearl-clutchers have assembled and are targeting not only books dealing with sex and gender but also books featuring Black themes and US history. It’s a predictable flex. A tired flex.
A Q&A with Jeanne Theoharis | I think people assume that they know her. Even many people who know Rosa Parks wasn’t just a simple seamstress who accidentally walked into history don’t realize how much of her history—the militancy of her early activism in Montgomery, her activism in Detroit, her work in the Black Power movement—is still largely unrecognized.