The Promise and Threat of Black Detroit in the Age of the Great Migration: The People v. Ossian Sweet

In the first decades of the twentieth century, no northern city drew more southern migrants than Detroit, ‘City of Tomorrow’.[i] As one Free Press reporter noted in 1917, ‘Detroit’s unexampled prosperity is the lodestone that is attracting thousands of Negroes’.[ii] Between 1910 and 1920, Detroit’s Black population increased almost eightfold,… Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Hattiesburg, An American City in Black and White’ by William Sturkey

It is recollections such as Mr Conner’s that interlace the narrative of Hattiesburg – An American City in Black and White. William Sturkey, Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has steadfastly dissected archives and recordings to bring alive the history of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a Deep Dixie South lumber town, inviting the reader in through a page-time continuum. The skilful use of recorded interviews gives his narration a personal note, leading an alternating discourse through the experience of Hattiesburg’s white and black residents. Sturkey emphasizes the South’s survival being crucially tied to the growing number of African Americans settling in. The Hattiesburgers were exceptional citizens whose civil rights were severely and unlawfully abused and abandoned. Sturkey notes how the black residents of Mobile Street were examples of fortitude and perseverance, and how their “civil rights movement revolutionized race […] through countless of acts of individual resistance.” (295) Even when discussing the white experience, Sturkey’s emphasis remains on the inequality and brutality as directed toward the black residents of the lumber town, where the realities of the black and white citizens of Hattiesburg could not have been more passionately different and where “every component of Jim Crow was reinforced by the threat of violence.” (85) Not even the smallest racial oppression imposed upon Hattiesburg’s black citizens is left out; such as the recollection of Osceola McCarty, who at a young age of twelve had to “trade the pencils and paper of a student for the iron and washboard of a laundress” (83) as the young girl’s help home was needed more than her education. The weaning and waning of the city become more tangible as Sturkey entwines the history with memories of one black family in particular – the Smiths. Continue reading

For a Series so Concerned with Leaning into the Horror, The Handmaid’s Tale Utterly Fails to Address Race

Whenever the TV series or the new sequel to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are mentioned, the same question arises: do we really want to know what happens after Offred (pre-Gilead name June) steps “into the darkness within; or else the light”? This is June’s infamous last line, which finds its way into the first series with meticulous fidelity before the HBO adaptation continues her timeline. Until Atwood released The Testaments in 2019, critics have been asking whether the HBO adaptation ought to have done this – yet the original novel did play with such boundaries, giving readers glimpses of past lives and future conclusions about those lives in the academic conference provided in the “Historical Notes.” What makes Handmaid so appropriate for this golden age of television is that the political premise finds its place just as comfortably in the Trump era as it did under Reagan. Continue reading

University of Nottingham: Review: Marx and Marxism in the United States

Conference Review: ‘Marx and Marxism in the United States: A One-Day Symposium’, University of Nottingham, 11 May 2019. In 1906, German economist and sociologist Werner Sombart declared that there was no socialism – and no class consciousness – in the United States. Just over a decade later, America was plunged… Continue reading

Book Review: The World Reimagined by Mark Philip Bradley

In June 2018, Nikki Haley, United States ambassador to the United Nations, criticised the scathing Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to the United States of America, arguing that the UN should instead focus on developing countries such as Burundi and Congo. Her response highlights America’s complex political geography of human rights, the subject of Mark Philip Bradley’s bridging of diplomatic history and cultural analysis in The World Reimagined: Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century. Continue reading

Northumbria University: Review: Horror, Cult and Exploitation Media II

Conference Review: Horror, Cult and Exploitation Media II: A Workshop for PhDs and ECRs, Northumbria University, 4 May 2018 Website: https://horrorcultexploitation.wordpress.com/ ‘Horror, Cult and Exploitation Media’ workshop for PhD candidates and ECRs was held at Northumbria University on the 4 May 2018. The day consisted of three panels, carefully programmed… Continue reading

Video Games and American Studies: Introduction to the Series

Since the 1980s, video games have proliferated globally and had a corresponding cultural impact. Considering that the USA has been the major site of the culture industry driving this development both economically and symbolically, few would deny that video games are important objects of study with regard to American culture. Continue reading

Walking Distance: Navigation, Epiphany, and Memory in American Small-Town Fiction

The navigation of the physical small-town space triggers memories, emotions, and other physiological responses that help narrate and give shape to localised communities. The act of walking can be epiphanic and cathartic, it can geographise and shape the vast topography of American regions, and, in the texts concerned with small-town America, it becomes a vital signifier not simply of life, but of living. Continue reading

Book Review: Tennessee Williams by Paul Ibell

Paul Ibell’s Tennessee Williams, part of Reaktion’s Critical Lives strand, provides a thorough, well-balanced overview of Williams’s life; it is a solid, well-considered addition to the biographical materials available on its subject, one of the foremost contributors to the American theatrical canon. Spanning just over 180 pages, Ibell explores three central aspects of Williams’s life-story: his tumultuous familial upbringing; the centrality of homosexuality and gender dynamics to his work; and the sharp, irreversible decline he experienced from the mid-1960s through to his death in the early-1980s, a decline punctuated by his fraught, painful relationship with his critics. Continue reading

Folklore and Gay Literature: The Making of a Community

This essay is the third in our series, ‘Literature, Visual Imagery and Material Culture in American Studies’. The series seeks to situate literature, visual imagery and material culture at the heart of American studies, and will explore the varying ways in which written and non-written sources have been created, politicised, exploited, and celebrated by the diverse peoples of the United States and beyond. You can find out more information here. Continue reading