How much has racial prejudice hurt President Obama?

Posted July 11th, 2014 by
Category: Living consequences Tags: , , ,

President Barack ObamaThere are two new studies out on public opinion and voting behavior which shed light on persistent questions about how much racial prejudice hurts black politicians, and in particular, President Obama’s approval ratings and his vote totals in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

The first new study, “The cost of racial animus on a black candidate,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz and slated for publication in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Public Economics, asks a relatively simple question: how much did racial prejudice affect Barack Obama’s vote share?1

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  1. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, “The cost of racial animus on a black candidate: Evidence using Google search data,” Journal of Public Economics 118: 26-40 (2014). []
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“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”

Posted July 4th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , , ,

Frederick DouglassThis post was originally published on July 4, 2013 and is reposted today in commemoration of Independence Day, in all its meanings.

It is always worth making time, on the Fourth of July, to remember those people and movements whose courage and sacrifice advanced and improved upon the ideals on which the United States was founded. This is true even for those which may have seemed radical, subversive, or even unpatriotic at the time.

In that light, we highly recommend the Fourth of July oration delivered by abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, N.Y. on July 5, 1852, entitled “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”1

The following brief excepts from Douglass’ speech illustrate not only his burning hatred for slavery and his withering scorn for those who would not extend the nation’s liberty to all its children, but also his praise for all that is good in the American experiment, and his optimism for the future:
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  1. Our thanks to Mass Humanities, among others, for laboring diligently to make this speech, and its spirit, an integral part of our Independence Day celebrations each year. []
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Who were the Africans who revolted aboard the Amistad?

Posted July 2nd, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , ,

Historical map of west Africa, showing Lomboko and the Gallinas RiverToday is the 175th anniversary of the Amistad revolt. In the United States, attention understandably focuses on the trial of the enslaved Africans who seized control of the ship from its crew, since the legal proceedings took place in this country.

Yet who were the enslaved people who rose up and took command of the Amistad? Where had they come from, and where were they hoping to go?

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50 years ago today, the U.S. Senate passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Posted June 19th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , ,

President Lyndon Johnson speaks with Senator Richard Russell, Dec. 7, 1963Fifty years ago today, the U.S. Senate passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, after ending the longest continuous debate in Senate history.

America grows. America changes. And on the civil rights issue we must rise with the occasion.

— Republican Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen,  announcing he would help Democrats pass the Civil Rights Act

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Remembering the first Memorial Day

Posted May 26th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , ,

In honor of Memorial Day, we are reposting this blog entry from last year, which recounts how the first Memorial Day was celebrated by free black troops and civilians in Charleston, S.C. at the end of the Civil War.

St. Michael's Church, Charleston, South Carolina, 1865As we pause today to remember the nation’s war dead, it’s worth remembering that Memorial Day was first celebrated by black Union troops and free black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina at the end of the Civil War.

As historian David Blight recounts in his masterful book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001), Charleston was occupied by Union troops in the spring of 1865, most white residents having fled the city. In this atmosphere, the free black population of Charleston, primarily consisting of former slaves, engaged in a series of celebrations to proclaim the meaning of the war as they saw it.

The height of these celebrations took place on May 1, 1865, on the grounds of the former Washington Race Course and Jockey Club, an elite facility which had been used by the Confederates as a gruesome prison and mass grave for unlucky Union soldiers. Following the evacuation of Charleston, black laborers had dug up the remains of Union soldiers, given them a proper burial, and built the trappings of a respectful cemetery around the site to memorialize their sacrifice.

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Tennessee weighs an apology for slavery

Posted April 16th, 2014 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Formerly enslaved Tennesseans and their descendants, c. 1890Yesterday, we reported on our Twitter and Facebook accounts that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted, 97-0, in favor of a resolution expressing “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery and racial segregation—but only after stripping the resolution of its original language offering “profound apologies” for this history.

This move by one chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly to express regret for slavery and discrimination follows a wave of such actions by states between 2007 and 2009, culminating in a failed attempt by the U.S. Congress to apologize for the nation’s role in slavery. And while this action comes several years later than the others, it fits the established pattern for such expressions of remorse.

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