The story of school desegregation in the United States often begins in the mid-twentieth-century South. Drawing on archival sources and genealogical records, Kabria Baumgartner uncovers the story’s origins in the nineteenth-century Northeast and identifies a previously overlooked group of activists: African American girls and women.
In their quest for education, African American girls and women faced numerous obstacles—from threats and harassment to violence. For them, education was a daring undertaking that put them in harm’s way. Yet bold and brave young women such as Sarah Harris, Sarah Parker Remond, Rosetta Morrison, Susan Paul, and Sarah Mapps Douglass persisted.
In Pursuit of Knowledge argues that African American girls and women strategized, organized, wrote, and protested for equal school rights—not just for themselves, but for all. Their activism gave rise to a new vision of womanhood: the purposeful woman, who was learned, active, resilient, and forward-thinking. Moreover, these young women set in motion equal-school-rights victories at the local and state level, and laid the groundwork for further action to democratize schools in twentieth-century America. In this thought-provoking book, Baumgartner demonstrates that the confluence of race and gender has shaped the long history of school desegregation in the United States right up to the present.
A stark disparity exists between black and white youth experiences in the justice system today. Black youths are perceived to be older and less innocent than their white peers. When it comes to incarceration, race trumps class, and even as black youths articulate their own experiences with carceral authorities, many Americans remain surprised by the inequalities they continue to endure. In this revealing book, Carl Suddler brings to light a much longer history of the policies and strategies that tethered the lives of black youths to the justice system indefinitely.
The criminalization of black youth is inseparable from its racialized origins. In the mid-twentieth century, the United States justice system began to focus on punishment, rather than rehabilitation. By the time the federal government began to address the issue of juvenile delinquency, the juvenile justice system shifted its priorities from saving delinquent youth to purely controlling crime, and black teens bore the brunt of the transition.
In New York City, increased state surveillance of predominantly black communities compounded arrest rates during the post–World War II period, providing justification for tough-on-crime policies. Questionable police practices, like stop-and-frisk, combined with media sensationalism, cemented the belief that black youth were the primary cause for concern. Even before the War on Crime, the stakes were clear: race would continue to be the crucial determinant in American notions of crime and delinquency, and black youths condemned with a stigma of criminality would continue to confront the overwhelming power of the state.
We Are Worth Fighting For is the first history of the 1989 Howard University protest. The three-day occupation of the university’s Administration Building was a continuation of the student movements of the sixties and a unique challenge to the politics of the eighties. Upset at the university’s appointment of the Republican strategist Lee Atwater to the Board of Trustees, students forced the issue by shutting down the operations of the university. The protest, inspired in part by the emergence of “conscious” hip hop, helped to build support for the idea of student governance and drew upon a resurgent black nationalist ethos.
At the center of this story is a student organization known as Black Nia F.O.R.C.E. Co-founded by Ras Baraka, the group was at the forefront of organizing the student mobilization at Howard during the spring of 1989 and thereafter. We Are Worth Fighting For explores how black student activists—young men and women— helped shape and resist the rightward shift and neoliberal foundations of American politics. This history adds to the literature on Black campus activism, Black Power studies, and the emerging histories of African American life in the 1980s.