Category Archives: articles

Exhibition Review: Ernest Cole Photographer

Images of South African apartheid (1948 – 1994) are not part of the living memory of today’s New York University students. To those of us that can recall, a pin attached to Bill Cosby’s memorable sweaters provided one of the only clues to apartheid’s gruesome existence during our childhood. Thankfully, Ernest Cole Photographer, the current exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, is an infinitely more complex introduction to this episode of modern barbarism. The first solo museum exhibition of Ernest Cole’s photojournalism, Ernest Cole Photographer is a guided tour of racial and labor divisions as experienced by black men and women, witnessed by the eye of one of South Africa’s first black photo journalist.

Exhibition Review: Ernest Cole Photographer

Images of South African apartheid (1948 – 1994) are not part of the living memory of today’s New York University students. To those of us that can recall, a pin attached to Bill Cosby’s memorable sweaters provided one of the only clues to apartheid’s gruesome existence during our childhood. Thankfully, Ernest Cole Photographer, the current exhibition at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, is an infinitely more complex introduction to this episode of modern barbarism. The first solo museum exhibition of Ernest Cole’s photojournalism, Ernest Cole Photographer is a guided tour of racial and labor divisions as experienced by black men and women, witnessed by the eye of one of South Africa’s first black photo journalist.

Review: Ideology and the American Revolution

The empire-wide political crisis of the 1760s, generated in great part by the success of British commercial and political ambitions, forms the backdrop to the American Revolution. While the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 marked a defeat of France by the British Empire, domestic opposition within Britain reached a new height. The empire’s territorial gains, a growing imperial debt, and a greater bureaucratic centralization of the military commercial empire intensified tensions in the already-existing continental opposition. The political culture of the 1760s and 1770s was driven by debates over the nature of government and its dealings in commercial affairs. Country Whigs in England looked with “great nostalgia to when men of independent means controlled the destiny of Parliament” (Bailyn, Origins of American Politics, 50), while a new voice of radicalism, the adopted son of the colonies, Tom Paine, blamed the regressive conditions of the Old World for stifling liberty.

Review: Ideology and the American Revolution

The empire-wide political crisis of the 1760s, generated in great part by the success of British commercial and political ambitions, forms the backdrop to the American Revolution. While the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 marked a defeat of France by the British Empire, domestic opposition within Britain reached a new height. The empire’s territorial gains, a growing imperial debt, and a greater bureaucratic centralization of the military commercial empire intensified tensions in the already-existing continental opposition. The political culture of the 1760s and 1770s was driven by debates over the nature of government and its dealings in commercial affairs. Country Whigs in England looked with “great nostalgia to when men of independent means controlled the destiny of Parliament” (Bailyn, Origins of American Politics, 50), while a new voice of radicalism, the adopted son of the colonies, Tom Paine, blamed the regressive conditions of the Old World for stifling liberty.

Literature Review: The Reconstruction of the North

In an astute observation, Cohen writes that the history of liberal politics is “a tale of relationships, most important, of the triangular struggle for power between liberals, conservatives, and socialists.” All three ideological forces were active in the conflicts of the postwar era. And while the transformation of objective conditions were guided by forces more extensive than domestic Republican policies, the subjective conditions of political transformation where shaped by responses to social unrest by laborers and Southern freedmen. The legacy of this transformation in American politics has provided the direction of liberalism (or “liberal reform”) well into the twentieth century.

Literature Review: The Reconstruction of the North

In an astute observation, Cohen writes that the history of liberal politics is “a tale of relationships, most important, of the triangular struggle for power between liberals, conservatives, and socialists.” All three ideological forces were active in the conflicts of the postwar era. And while the transformation of objective conditions were guided by forces more extensive than domestic Republican policies, the subjective conditions of political transformation where shaped by responses to social unrest by laborers and Southern freedmen. The legacy of this transformation in American politics has provided the direction of liberalism (or “liberal reform”) well into the twentieth century.

Review: The Education of Booker T. Washington

Washington often talked about the embrace of manual labor as a virtue — in opposition to the fetishization of education as providing an “easy way out” from the hardships of a newly attained freedom. Here perhaps there could have been a more solid intervention by West: this presented an opportunity to investigate how concepts of industriousness and social independence throughout labor (although not labor in the cities) animated Washington’s political imagination. West writes that Washington was inconsistent about his portrayal of the black race as most industrious, or less industrious etc. (97), but in his very telling (and damning) quote that “notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did,” Washington seems to imply that slavery served as a kind of labor-training for American blacks (a notion he also contradicts in other statements).

Review: The Education of Booker T. Washington

Washington often talked about the embrace of manual labor as a virtue — in opposition to the fetishization of education as providing an “easy way out” from the hardships of a newly attained freedom. Here perhaps there could have been a more solid intervention by West: this presented an opportunity to investigate how concepts of industriousness and social independence throughout labor (although not labor in the cities) animated Washington’s political imagination. West writes that Washington was inconsistent about his portrayal of the black race as most industrious, or less industrious etc. (97), but in his very telling (and damning) quote that “notwithstanding the cruel wrongs inflicted upon us, the black man got nearly as much out of slavery as the white man did,” Washington seems to imply that slavery served as a kind of labor-training for American blacks (a notion he also contradicts in other statements).

Review: Origins of the New South

Woodward’s cast of characters is dizzying at first glance. At the beginning of the conflict are the “Redeemers,” these latter-day Whigs gained political power on a platform of restoring “home rule” and overthrowing the legacy of corruption left by the Radicals. They were extremely distrustful of legislatures, and espoused a program that conveniently aligned with factory owners, railroad men, and merchants of Charleston, Columbia and other cities. In the end, this plan did little to promote the growth of an indigenous, and independent, Southern capitalist class; the introduction of new Southern economic development was subject to the leadership of Eastern capital interests, thus, Redeemers were the middlemen in a process that pinned Eastern capital interests against the “unredeemed farmer” and the Southern freeman.

Review: Origins of the New South

Woodward’s cast of characters is dizzying at first glance. At the beginning of the conflict are the “Redeemers,” these latter-day Whigs gained political power on a platform of restoring “home rule” and overthrowing the legacy of corruption left by the Radicals. They were extremely distrustful of legislatures, and espoused a program that conveniently aligned with factory owners, railroad men, and merchants of Charleston, Columbia and other cities. In the end, this plan did little to promote the growth of an indigenous, and independent, Southern capitalist class; the introduction of new Southern economic development was subject to the leadership of Eastern capital interests, thus, Redeemers were the middlemen in a process that pinned Eastern capital interests against the “unredeemed farmer” and the Southern freeman.

Review: Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South

Adam Rothman’s Slave Country sharply presents the making of the Deep South, i.e., what we now know as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. He argues, in agreement with Davis and Blackburn, that the structure of politics in the United States amplified the Southern planters’ power, and in so doing, augmented the influence of slavery over national politics. Rothman provides a careful description of both the cotton and sugar plantation economies in the region and their intersection with territorial expansion in the early nineteenth century.

Review: Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South

Adam Rothman’s Slave Country sharply presents the making of the Deep South, i.e., what we now know as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. He argues, in agreement with Davis and Blackburn, that the structure of politics in the United States amplified the Southern planters’ power, and in so doing, augmented the influence of slavery over national politics. Rothman provides a careful description of both the cotton and sugar plantation economies in the region and their intersection with territorial expansion in the early nineteenth century.

Review: American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights

Blackburn’s American Crucible contains a thorough review of Atlantic historical scholarship with an emphasis on Atlantic Revolutions, slavery and abolitionist thought. He revisits Eric Williams’s famous thesis on the role of modern slavery as key to the development of industrial revolution, spearheaded by the British. Blackburn concludes that while slavery was key to the relative political dominance of Britain, the expansion of industrial capitalism could have happened without the system of slavery.

Review: American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights

Blackburn’s American Crucible contains a thorough review of Atlantic historical scholarship with an emphasis on Atlantic Revolutions, slavery and abolitionist thought. He revisits Eric Williams’s famous thesis on the role of modern slavery as key to the development of industrial revolution, spearheaded by the British. Blackburn concludes that while slavery was key to the relative political dominance of Britain, the expansion of industrial capitalism could have happened without the system of slavery.