Secondary Marginalization and the New Jim Crow

Several years ago political scientist Cathy Cohen published the groundbreaking book, Democracy Remixed: Black Politics and the Future of American Politics. Cohen is also the founder of the Black Youth Project. The book provides a comprehensive overview of black youth … Continue reading

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Nashville and Racialized Media Images of Crime

In the early 2000s, the Youth Media Council partnered with young advocates around the country to investigate local news stories of young people. The group commissioned two reports highlighting the content of local news coverage of youth of color in … Continue reading

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Ban the Box and Background Check Policies for Nashville Area Companies

In the Spring 2014, my research assistant (Mariah Dungey) and I assessed ban the box policies for 39 companies in Middle Tennessee. (Seventeen of the 39 companies were fast food or dine-in restaurants.) The “Box” refers to the question on … Continue reading

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Surge in Movement Activity: Ferguson, Moral Week of Action, and the Restaurant Workers

This gallery contains 7 photos.

The last month has seen a surge of three forms of movement activity. The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri ignited a wave of actions against police misconduct. These included daily protests in Ferguson and around the country in … Continue reading

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The Shortcomings of the Kochonomics Report

In late Spring, I was contacted by a journalist who wanted to discuss the Tennessee General Assembly’s decision not to support the proposed AMP project. By now, many Nashvillians know that the AMP is a proposal to create a bus … Continue reading

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High School Sports and Layoffs at the Tennessean

I was disappointed to learn about the layoffs of the Tennessean newspaper’s high school journalists, Chip Cirillo and Maurice Patton. I am not an avid reader of high school sports and don’t know the reporters, but I read enough to … Continue reading

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Blacks and Climate Change

I have been closely following President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent proposals to mitigate climate change.  I recently wrote an essay  about the role that blacks and the civil rights community have played in the climate justice movement.  The essay can be found at Atlanta BlackStar.


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Remembering the Sacrifices of Everyday Activists

In the upcoming months, there will be countless celebrations marking the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights of 1965. Without a doubt, these laws were crowning achievements in American political history. Congress did in fact … Continue reading

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Amp Discussion Exposes Racial Fault Lines

This is my latest piece on transit justice.  The essay appeared in the Tennessean newspaper.  I am posting it with the original title (it was changed by the Tennessean). ————————————————————————————— For the better part of a year, I was part … Continue reading

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The Long Arc of Justice

This photograph near the conclusion of Sean Wilentz’s The Rise of American Democracy is an important reminder of the long arc of justice.  It is the jury that was set to try Jefferson Davis, the president of the confederacy and an ardent defender of slavery and states’ rights.  Although Davis was never tried for treason and other crimes – he was released after two years of imprisonment -  the jury of seven blacks and five whites demonstrates that, occasionally, people who have their backs against the wall do indeed win.

Wilentz, Rise of American Democracy, p. 796.
Wilentz, Rise of American Democracy, p. 796.

The previous decades of the 1840s and 1850s was the worst of times for enslaved and free blacks.  The Mexican-American War, the Fugitive Slave Clause of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the Dred Scott decision gave proslavery advocates a green light to extend the peculiar institution beyond the Mason-Dixon line. U.S. presidents (Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan) also did little to challenge slavery, and even backed policies that allowed for its expansion to the West. Yet within a decade, slavery as we knew it was abolished and African Americans composed most of the jury members assigned to try the leading confederate politician.

The biracial jury provides an important lesson for 21st century resistance movements and the political forces associated with them.  They must always continue to struggle for change despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that confront them.  They must be creative, persistent, and persevere.  What may seem like a hopeless political context in one period, may be an advantageous one in the next.

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