Why the Communism?

Ever wished you could be back at school, but without the awkward lunch room/locker room/school bus situations? If so, you should check out the Khan Academy. Sal Khan has videos on pretty much everything (although lacking in the area of history a bit).

I found this one on communism. If you’ve never read Marx’s Communist Manifesto, this is a nice little crash course. Khan’s political leanings are clear, but he does a great job mapping out different types of government and how communism came about, how it works, and where several modern nations stand today.

This day in history…1861

…Georgia voted to secede from the Union. Check out this NPR broadcast that woke me up this morning. Contrary to popular belief, there was much dispute over secession in our state. Most interesting to me is Alexander Stephens’ 1861 speech attempting to persuade Georgians to cooperate rather than fight the north. It also sheds light on the centrality of the issue of slavery to the war. He later became the Vice President of the Confederacy.

ATLANTA, GA (WABE) – Today is January 19th, and if we were to turn Georgia’s clock back 150 years to this date in 1861, we’d find delegates at a state convention in Milledgeville voting to leave the Union. Here, Georgia State University historian Cliff Kuhn talks with WABE’s Steve Goss… © Copyright 2011, WABE

“Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness”

How is identity formed? Who forms it? What are the politics of knowledge? What is blackness?

A colleague and I watched an incredible documentary yesterday on one of the first people to wrestle with this issue.

Check out a preview of   “Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness”

Melville Herskovits, a Jewish-American scholar at Northwestern University, was instrumental in beginning the study of African-American history in the United States in the 20th century. He argued along with a few other anthropologists that race was cultural rather than biological, a truth few deny today. He also claimed that African Americans were strongly linked to Africa,unlike E. Franklin Frazier’s assertion that black culture was similar to white culture. Historians have long debated if black Americans have connections to Africa or their culture was stripped along with their dignity in the Middle Passage. Herskovits showed that African culture was connected to African-American culture. This might sound right on target, after all, how could a culture be extinguished completely on the other side of the Atlantic? But his study is more complicated than it seems at first. The documentary brings up questions of the study itself, not the answer to his original question.

Herskovits was a white guy discussing studying black culture, which angered many black people. One historian in the documentary asks, “Does the right to define and describe and observe a people give you power over those people?” Is this “colonization of the mind?” Do white people have the right to tell black people about their culture? How long will black Americans be the objects not the agents?

The documentary asks, “What is “objective study” and when does it become politicized? What happens when the scholar becomes the powerbroker? What are the consequences when we deny a people the right to define themselves? Who controls the production of knowledge, how and why?”

Needless to say, I highly recommend it. It’s on file here in our Diversity Library.