Black History in Ithaca

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St. James AME Zion Church

As the end of February approaches, it’s important to reflect on the contributions—major and minor—black Americans have made to US history nationally and locally. In May of 2003, the Cornell-Ithaca Partnership and the History Center in Tompkins County developed a self-guided tour of Ithaca’s Southside neighborhood. Since Ithaca’s founding in 1804, the Southside has been home to interesting, dedicated people committed to the preservation and enrichment of their and their community’s Black heritage, culture, and way of life. From Zachariah Tyler, who enlisted with his son in the 26th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry at the age of fifty-six, to Aunt Elsie Brooks, a former slave who was so beloved by her community that more than eight hundred people attended her funeral, almost collapsing the floor of the St. James AME Zion Church. Without the influence of the Southside and its history, Ithaca would not be the town we know and love today.

If you choose to follow the self-guided tour, please be respectful as many of these sites are currently private homes to families and individuals.

Map of sites in Ithaca with ties to Black history, heritage, and culture.

Carmen Torrado Gonzalez is Marketing Assistant at Cornell University Press. She is a native Ithacan and an avid reader of poetry. Follow her on Twitter @CarmenTorradoG

Black History in Ithaca

Necessary Reading: Books to Celebrate Black History Month

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In our current political landscape, it’s more necessary now than ever to have a richer, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of race in the US. Books that offer a deep dive into subjects as wide-ranging as the intertwined histories of European expansionism and racism, African-American steelworkers in 1920s Indiana, a multiracial neighborhood in Queens, and the translations and reception abroad of a legendary black American poet’s work, can offer illuminating insight into the ways we think about and grapple with race today.

To that end, and to continue our celebration of Black History Month, here is a selection of just some of the books we’ve published over the years on race and African American history. Continue reading “Necessary Reading: Books to Celebrate Black History Month”

Necessary Reading: Books to Celebrate Black History Month

Excerpt: White World Order, Black Power Politics

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As part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month, here’s an excerpt from the Introduction of White World Order, Black Power Politics, by Robert Vitalis. This award-winning book contends that racism and imperialism are the twin forces that propelled the course of the United States in the world in the early twentieth century and in turn affected the way that diplomatic history and international relations (originally known as “race relations”) were taught and understood in the American academy.

Continue reading “Excerpt: White World Order, Black Power Politics”

Excerpt: White World Order, Black Power Politics

Labor Posters with a Message of Equality

As part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month, we broke open the stacks and searched for unusual books that showcase African American history. With our focus on labor history, through our imprint ILR Press, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that we have a book of classic labor posters. Still, it’s gratifying and energizing to look through and discover posters within this book that broach subjects of race discrimination, hate crimes, and African American organized labor.

Here’s a small selection of these posters from the pages of Agitate! Educate! Organize! American Labor Posters by Lincoln Cushing and Timothy W. Drescher. Continue reading “Labor Posters with a Message of Equality”

Labor Posters with a Message of Equality

Excerpt: Two Weeks Every Summer, by Tobin Miller Shearer

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Tobin Miller Shearer published Two Weeks Every Summer: Fresh Air Children and the Problem of Race in America with Cornell University Press in 2017. In his book, Miller Shearer focuses on the history of the Fresh Air program, and, in particular, the voices of the children themselves through letters that they wrote, pictures that they took, and their testimonials. Shearer offers a careful social and cultural history of the Fresh Air programs, giving readers a good sense of the summer experiences for both hosts and the visiting children.

As part of our month-long focus on Black History Month, here is an excerpt from the Introduction. Continue reading “Excerpt: Two Weeks Every Summer, by Tobin Miller Shearer”

Excerpt: Two Weeks Every Summer, by Tobin Miller Shearer

Excerpt: Whose Detroit? by Heather Ann Thompson

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Picketers at Detroit Police Headquarters protesting the fatal shooting of a black woman, July 13, 1963. Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University. (P. 39, Whose Detroit?)

Heather Ann Thompson recently received the Pulitzer Prize for her book Blood in the Water. She published Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City with Cornell University Press in 2001 with a revised edition in 2017. As part of our month-long focus on Black History Month, here is an excerpt from the Prologue of the 2017 edition.

Back in 2001, in the first printing of this book, I argued most forcefully that if one wanted really to comprehend the fate of America’s inner cities over the course of the postwar period, one had to begin by fully understanding what had happened in the Motor City. Detroit, I had maintained, was in fact ground zero for any scholar seeking to make sense of why cities across the nation that had seemed to be synonymous with economic opportunity and prosperity in the 1950s became, by the 1960s, the epicenter of countless rebellions for greater racial equality and, then, by the 1980s, bastions of crime and decay. Continue reading “Excerpt: Whose Detroit? by Heather Ann Thompson”

Excerpt: Whose Detroit? by Heather Ann Thompson