Anderson Interviewed on Supreme Court Challenge to NY Gun Restrictions in ‘Slate’

Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies Dr. Carol Anderson was recently interviewed by Slate journalist Mark Joseph Stern. Their conversation centers on an upcoming Supreme Court case challenging the state of New York’s restrictive concealed carry laws, which have drawn criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. Drawing on her most recent book, The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America (Bloomsbury, 2021), Anderson discusses the intersection of racism and gun control, past and present. Read an excerpt below along with the full piece: “Does the Progressive Case Against New York’s Concealed Carry Ban Hold Water?”

The amicus brief really speaks to the conundrum of anti-Blackness in American society. When Black people are defined as the default threat in American society—when you have this architecture of laws and of policing that comes into being to control that Black population—it means that Black people are vulnerable when they are armed, and vulnerable when they’re unarmed.

Q&A with 2021 ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow Alexander Cors

Earlier this year PhD candidate Alexander Cors was named a 2021 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. In the following Q & A exchange, Cors offers more context about his dissertation, titled “Newcomers and New Borders: Migration, Property Formation, and Conflict over Land along the Mississippi River, 1750-1820.”

What was the genesis of your project, and how has it changed since you first entered graduate school?

The project I am working on now is quite different from the project I started with when I first entered graduate school. Geographically, I stayed in the wonderfully complex eighteenth-century Mississippi Valley, but thematically, my project has changed directions many times. My interest in the process of land-claiming expanded from an inquiry into colonial migration and European competition to a much broader analysis of property formation, settler colonialism, and dispossession.

My dissertation project now examines how small and mobile Indigenous groups from the Houma, Shawnee, Delaware, and Avoyelles-Tunica-Biloxi nations used Spanish colonial laws to protect their land, property, and sovereignty from white settlers. I argue that the process of property formation was a contested and malleable set of practices, negotiated through occupation, land grants, and court proceedings. My dissertation challenges traditional periodizations and geographies of North American history by viewing colonial expansion, Indigenous dispossession, and the rise of the slave-plantation economy as interconnected processes that spanned across national and imperial boundaries.

What has the research process during dissertation fieldwork been like? 

I am fortunate that my fieldwork takes me to many interesting and beautiful cities. Following archival trails and trying to piece together stories that happened in the eighteenth-century Mississippi Valley brought me to libraries and archives on both sides of the Atlantic – from New Orleans to Aix-en-Provence, and from Mexico City to Madrid.

I analyze every-day interactions and conflicts between Indigenous peoples, Europeans, and Africans through the lens of property formation using French and Spanish correspondence, Euro-American travel accounts, Indigenous oral histories, Spanish judicial records, and maps, land surveys, and archeological reports.

Despite its challenges, working with such a wide variety of sources ensures that I never have a boring day in the archives. It also helps that archives like the Historic New Orleans Collection are located in the French Quarter, so I can always be sure to find a nice Feierabend drink at the end of a long day in the reading room.

How do digital humanities approaches figure into your work?

Digital Humanities has been a key element of my dissertation process since the very beginning. I use historical geography and digital mapping not only as a tool for visualization, but also as an integral research methodology. Trying to map Indigenous, colonial, and African settlement patterns has led me to both ask new questions and offer different approaches than previous scholarship.

Support from the Fox Center, the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation enabled me to develop technical skills and conduct research for a digital mapping project that has since become an integral part of my dissertation.

Are you partial to a particular chapter, section, or story from the project so far?

I decided to start with the chapter I presumed to be the most challenging. Chapter 3, “Possessing the Border,” is a case study of property formation and dispossession that analyses Houma and French-Acadian settlements in the Lower Mississippi Valley from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Using eighteenth century French and Spanish notarial acts, correspondence, and Houma oral history, this chapter is a legal history of migrating, settling, claim-making, titling, and defending property. One challenge was that all actors in this chapter are constantly re-locating – there is no static “homeland” over time. In part, I argue that the notion of “homeland” is fluid and malleable as people adapt to new circumstances and locations.

What I like about this chapter is the variety of sources that helped me draw this story over almost two hundred years. By looking at original and rarely used Spanish and French handwritten archival records, I could draw out perspectives that differ from the nineteenth-century English translations that previous historians used.

Greene Analyzes Crossroads Moment for Southern Baptists on ‘NPR’

Dr. Alison Collis Greene, Associate Professor in the Candler School of Theology and Associated Faculty in the History Department, recently contributed to the NPR article, “America’s Top Evangelical Group Is Deciding If They’re Further Right Than Trump.” The piece centered on the June 2021 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), at which members addressed the denomination’s official positions on a host of major and divisive issues. Read an excerpt quoting Greene below along with the full article: “America’s Top Evangelical Group Is Deciding If They’re Further Right Than Trump.”

“‘I think the denomination is at a crossroads, but Southern Baptists are often at crossroads,’ Alison Collis Greene, an associate professor of religious history at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, tells NPR. ‘None of these things happens overnight, and this one has been brewing for a while.’

“The spotlight was already on SBC leaders as they entered this week’s convention. Last week, recordings were leaked of internal meetings that critics have said shows the denomination’s top leaders were slow-walking reforms that would address sexual abuse.

“‘At this point, the SBC’s core values are deeply connected with Republican Party politics,’ Greene says. ‘I’d use the term “reactionary” rather than “conservative” to describe those, particularly with regard to race, gender, and authority.'”

Q&A with 2021 ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellow Camille Goldmon

Earlier this year PhD candidate Camille Goldmon was named a 2021 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow. In the following Q&A exchange, Goldmon offers more context about her dissertation, titled “On the Right Side of Radicalism: African American Farmers, Tuskegee Institute, and Agrarian Radicalism in the Alabama Black Belt, 1881–1940.”

What was the genesis of your project, and how has it changed since you first entered graduate school?

I come from a background of Black farmers. My father is a third-generation farmer in Arkansas. I never gave it too much thought until I started noticing that everything I’d ever read about Black farmers was about sharecroppers. This prompted me to do more research on the origins of sharecropping in the US South for an undergraduate capstone paper. That’s when I started to realize the significance of agricultural landownership among Black southerners, particularly those in rural areas. I dug further into landowning African Americans and the challenges they faced for my master’s thesis. For my dissertation, however, I wanted to tell a slightly different story—one of overcoming challenges and dethroning systems of oppression. One that would better capture the narrative of people like my father, grandparents, and great-grandparents who tenaciously persisted in their pursuits of land, but would also shed light on the extent of obstacles deliberately designed to hinder them. That’s how I began focusing on grassroots agricultural activists and organizational leadership like that at Tuskegee Institute between 1881 and 1940. 

What has the research process during dissertation fieldwork been like? 

It goes without saying that the pandemic had totally changed the landscape of dissertation fieldwork, but luckily I’ve been able to get back into the archives over the past couple of months. There’s no way to describe the joy that comes from touching an archival source that you didn’t know existed, but fits perfectly into your research. 

How do digital humanities approaches figure into your work?

I mentioned wanting to expose the obstacles that Black farmers faced. These issues include disparate access to resources such as extension services, loans and grants, and tillable land. I can (and do) use census data, financial figures, and even dialogue to demonstrate the inequities and the effectiveness of efforts to dismantle systemic discrimination. However, I remember the first time I saw the 1939 Home Owners Loan Corporation Map of Chicago that showed redlining and segregated housing practices in the 1930s. And the first time I saw the diagram of the Brookes slave ship that illustrated how enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic. I knew about segregated housing and the inhumanity of the Middle Passage, but those visualizations completely upped the ante of my understanding. That’s why my dissertation has a digital component that functions as an online, open-access archive for digitized primary sources, GIS maps, and other visual aids that will hopefully deepen readers’ understanding of my work.

Are you partial to a particular chapter, section, or story from the project so far?

At this point, chapter designations are subject to change, but my favorite narrative thread in the entire project is that which follows individual farmers or farm families who advocated for themselves or used their landowning status to advocate for others. This includes farmers who opened their homes to visiting civil rights workers, which many African Americans in rural areas could not do without fear of eviction from white-owned land or being frozen out of jobs. It also includes those who joined organizations such as the Progressive Farmers and Households Union, Sharecroppers and Tenant Farmers Union, or Alabama Share Croppers Union at risk of violent reprisal against themselves and their families. I love having the privilege of telling these stories of strategy, community, and overall courageousness. 

Lipstadt Publishes Essay in ‘The Jewish Quarterly’

Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies and associated faculty in the History Department, recently published an essay in the relaunch issue of The Jewish Quarterly. The piece, “White insurrectionists: Anti-semitism in America,” examines the roots of far-right extremism in the United States. Read a short excerpt from the piece below, a longer excerpt at Jewish News, and the full article (subscription required) at The Jewish Quarterly.

“[The January 6 U.S. Capitol] assault shocked and surprised many people. It was unprecedented. (The Capitol had been attacked previously, but that was in 1812 by the British, not a swarm of American citizens.)

“I was not, however, surprised by either the insurrection or the antisemitism that was part of it. Rather than an ex nihilo event, it constituted a link in the growing chain of far-right extremist violence.

“During recent years, the United States – as well as much of Europe – has witnessed a decided growth in and sophistication of far-right white-power movements.

“Now that they have emerged more fully into the daylight, it is important that we recognise how the racism and antisemitism within them are inextricably linked.”