Lerner, Gerda Ph.D. — “The Foremother of Women’s History”

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The history of women has existed as long as humans have, but it was not until the last half of the 20th Century that women’s history received recognized academic attention.  Our guest, Professor Gerda Lerner was a pioneer in the movement to study and record the history of women.

Gerda Lerner led an extraordinary life from April 30, 1920 to January 2, 2013.  She was a historian, author and teacher, and ultimately a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin.  Her academic work was characterized by the attention she drew to the differences among women in class, race and sexual orientation.

Professor Lerner and I visited by phone in October 2002, began with her description why the distinctions among women of class, race and sexual orientation are important.

Originally Broadcast: October 1, 2002.

 

Randall Kennedy – “Can You Say This Word?”

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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Few words in the English language have caused so much pain, hurt and emotion as the N-word. It is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history. The long history of the pejorative use of the N-word has given it an unusual power that extends to the judicial system, literature and social settings.

Randall Kennedy, a professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, is the author of “Nigger-the Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”  His book chronicles the history of this word, in an effort to diffuse and neutralize it.

At the end of his book he writes, “There is much to be gained by allowing people all backgrounds to yank the N-word away from white supremacists to subvert its ugliest denotation, and to convert the N-work from a negative into a positive appellation.”

I spoke with Professor Randall Kennedy in the winter of 2002 while he was in California and asked him to begin our conversation by explaining this conclusion.

The book Randall Kennedy recommends in “The Negro in the American Revolution,” by Benjamin Quarles, written in 1961.

Originally Broadcast: March 19, 2002

Lynda Koolish, Ph.D. –”African American Writers”

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African American Writers: Portraits and Visions

The voice of a writer can be heard in words, and sometimes seen in the writer’s face. It is unusual to find both in a book in which the creator is both the author and the photographer. Lynda Koolish, our guest on this archive edition of Radio Curious, is a professor of African American literature at San Diego State University and an accomplished photographer. She is the author of a book entitled “African American Writers: Portraits and Visions” in which she reveals the visage of 59 African American writers along with a thumbnail biography and summation of each writer’s vision.

Lynda Koolish, Ph.D. recommends “Dien Cai Dau” and “Neon Vernacular” by Yusef Komunyakaa.

Originally Broadcast: February 19, 2002

“Kennedy, Randall — Can You Say This Word?”

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Few words in the English language have caused so much pain, hurt and emotion as the N-word. It is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history. The long history of the pejorative use of the N-word has given it an unusual power that extends to the judicial system, literature and social settings.

Randall Kennedy, a professor of Law at Harvard University Law School, is the author of “Nigger-the Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.”  His book chronicles the history of this word, in an effort to diffuse and neutralize it.

Originally Broadcast: March 19, 2002

“Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part Two”

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In part 2 of our conversation with Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” we continue our discussion of the migration of almost six million black American citizens from the south to northern and western cities between the years of 1915 and 1970. Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

“Wilkerson, Isabel — America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part One”

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In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.

Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In the first of two interviews recorded from Isabel Wilkerson’s home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, she begins with a description of the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”

The book Isabel Wilkerson recommends is “The Ark of Justice,” by Kevin Boyle.

“Annie Barnes – Racism in America”

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Everyday Racism: A Book For All Americans

Racism has too long been a part of the American experience. The Civil War and the Constitutional amendments that followed, the Supreme Court decisions ordering the desegregation of schools, and the Civil Rights movements did not end racism in America. Annie S. Barnes, holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Virginia and is a retired Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is the author of “Everyday Racism, A Book for All Americans,” a book based on the racist experiences suffered by 146 black college students. Professor Barnes describes effects of racism on black people and what black people and white people can do to combat it.

Annie Barnes recommends “Driving While Black,” by Kenneth Meeks.

Originally Broadcast: February 27, 2001

Mello, Mark: Reflections on The Underground Railroad—What now?

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Imagine growing up in a tightly bound community of no more than 60 people who worked from dawn to dusk and who were subjected to unimaginable indignities and torture. Why? Because they were African Americans born into slavery in the United States prior in the first half of the 19th century. They hoped and dreamed of freedom, freedom to an unknown place; that freedom served as a guide for those who risked their lives to flee the bondage.

Freedom for some was found in the seaport town of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where escaped former slaves were welcome. New Bedford was the richest city in the world in the 1850s, a city run by Quakers and other abolitionists, who created a safe haven for black people from the south. The 1,000 plus men and women who found refuge in New Bedford were more than enough to hide the newcomers as they arrived. Often the men found work on the whaling ships that ventured forth around the world from the New Bedford harbor. More can be learned about whaling in New Bedford in a two part Radio Curious program here.

In this series about New Bedford as a safe haven on the Underground Railroad, we explore the lives of freedom seeking ex-slaves who safely made the journey to the south east corner of Massachusetts. In this, the second of a two part program, we continue our visit with National Park Ranger Mark Mello. Part of Ranger Mello’s work is that of a tour guide interpreting the history and stories of pre-civil war New Bedford. His interpretations focus on the bravery and dedication of New Bedford residents at that time.

I joined Mark Mello’s walking tour about the Underground Railroad’s connection to New Bedford in the Old Town Section on September 2, 2016. This edition of Radio Curious begins with Ranger Mello’s story of Nathan and Polly Johnson, a free black couple who lived and worked there–he as a pharmacist and she a confectionary.

The books Mark Mello recommends are “Fugitive’s Gibraltar: Escaping Slaves and Abolitionism in New Bedford, Massachusetts,” by Kathryn Grover; “Whale Hunt,” by Nelson Cole Haley; and “Leviathan,” by Philip Hoare.

Sandra Kamusukiri as Maria Stewart: A Visit With a Free Black Woman – Boston 1840

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Maria W. Stewart, as characterized by professor and scholar Sandra Kamusakiri, was a free black woman who lived in Boston, MA, from the 1820s to the early 1840s. She was the first American born woman to lecture in public on political themes and likely the first African-American to speak out in defense of women’s rights. A forerunner to Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth, she was intensely religious and regarded as outspoken and controversial during her time. For more than a century, Maria W. Stewart’s life contributions remained obscured, illustrating the double pressures of racism and sexism on the lives African-American women. I met with Mariah W. Stewart in the person of Professor Sandra Kamusukiri during the 1996 Democracy in America Chautauqua, held in Ukiah, California.

Maria Stewart recommends “The Fair Sketches of Women,” by John Adams and “The Bible.”

Originally Broadcast: November 27, 1996

Wilkerson, Isabel: America’s Great Migration: 1915-1970 Part Two

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In the years between 1915 and 1970 almost six million black American citizens from the south migrated to northern and western cities seeking freedom and a better life. Our guest is Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.” Her book tells the untold experiences of the African-Americans who fled the south over three generations.
Wilkerson interviewed more than 1,000 people for her book. She is the first black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize and is a recipient of the George Polk Award and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her parents were part of the great migration, journeying from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington D.C.

In part one she discussed what she called the “biggest untold story of the 20th century.”  In part two of our conversation, recorded from her home near Atlanta, Georgia, on September 28, 2012, Isabel Wilkerson describes the inspiration behind her narrative non-fiction story of the six million African-Americans who migrated from the south between 1915 and 1970.