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  • Louis Venters

What I'm Reading: Race and Historical Memory

If you're like me, then you often find yourself with an embarrassment of riches in terms of good and important things to read online. Of course, there's a welter of noise to sift through, but in fact the amount of excellent reporting, commentary, and scholarship that's available today is phenomenal. I'm trying something new with my blog, which is to try from time to time to pull together some highlights around a particular theme that I find compelling or timely. Hopefully someone else will find them useful, too!

Here's an initial installment of five recent pieces that have caught my attention, all relating to questions of race and historical memory. U.S. society appears to be entering a rather unprecedented period of reevaluating its racial past--with all its implications for contemporary social policy. In one way or another these pieces all address questions of our collective memory of some of the country's most painful history.

Dunlap, "Evidence of Burial Ground Discovered in East Harlem," New York Times, 01.21.16

"The find in East Harlem offers a poignant, tangible link to black history, whose traces were ignored or discarded for generations by historians who chronicled New York from a white, European standpoint."

Rothman, "The New History of Slavery and Capitalism," Aeon, 12.31.15

"Studies exploring the historical relationship between slavery and capitalism resonate because the racialised nature of US capitalism continues to be patently evident."

"It is estimated that anywhere from 60-100 black citizens were killed while more than 2,000 were exiled from the city. It is the only successful coup d’état in the nation’s history."

Sehgal, "Fighting 'Erasure,'" New York Times, 02.02.16

"Compared with words like 'diversity'and 'representation,' with their glib corporate gloss, 'erasure' is a blunt word for a blunt process. It goes beyond simplistic discussions of quotas to ask: Whose stories are taught and told? Whose suffering is recognized? Whose dead are mourned?"

Coates, "The Case for Considering Reparations," Atlantic, 01.27.16

"A country that could actively contemplate atoning for plunder, by devoting significant resources to compensating its victims, would be a very different nation than one we live in now."

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