In the News

Race, Citizenship, and a Search for Intellectual Honesty
Martha S. Jones, January 5, 2018, The Journal of the Civil War Era

Perhaps I’ve been wrong about African American citizenship.

The anniversary year of the Fourteenth Amendment’s ratification is upon us. 2018 marks 150 years since birthright citizenship was constitutionalized.  I’ve told this story many times, even recounting it in an article for the Journal of the Civil War Era.

The Fourteenth Amendment established black Americans, and indeed nearly all those born in the United States, as its citizens: “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”  In 1868, the legal force of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which deemed all black people non-citizens, was overcome.  The new Constitution removed all doubt about African American claims to belonging, even as the content and the character of their rights would remain (and continue to be) subject of debate.

I have regarded this interpretation as ironclad, approaching something like a truth.  Unlike their Chinese American counterparts, after 1868 black Americans did not face state-sponsored schemes of exclusion.  Nor did African Americans confront schemes for their removal or threats to their sovereignty, as had Native Americans.  The long history of citizenship shows how people of color have not been on equal footing before the law.

But perhaps I’ve been wrong; perhaps black citizenship is not a sure thing after all.

*****
Lindsey O’Connor, Hyperallergic

CAPE TOWN — Lauded as a ‘cathedral,’ ‘Africa’s Tate Modern,’ and the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ Thomas Heatherwick’s architectural transformation of a defunct grain silo into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art has been described in increasingly hyperbolic terms.  The largest museum built in Africa in over 100 years, Zeitz MOCAA is poised to establish Cape Town, South Africa as a major contemporary art capital in the continent.  But in a historically conflicted city still seething with inequality, many people have questioned the museum’s corporate and commercial ties, and consider the institution elitist and out of touch with local communities. It is these questions of democratic representation and geopolitical agency that the museum aims to confront in the inaugural exhibition of its permanent collection, All Things Being Equal… .

Since the museum opened on September 22, 2017, praise for Heatherwick’s edifice has generally overshadowed critical discussions surrounding the artists and artworks that activate the space.  All Things Being Equal …, which derives its name from a text-based Hank Willis Thomas work on view, occupies a maze-like series of mostly small galleries dotted across three floors.  Organized by executive director and chief curator Mark Coetzee, along with twelve assistant curators, the exhibition features photography, sculpture, video, drawing, and installation from forty-one artists.

*****

 

Remembering the sins of Millard Fillmore
Carole Emberton January 5, 2018, The Washington Post

Although the anniversary of the birth of one of America’s least-remembered presidents will go unnoticed by most of the country, the city of Buffalo will honor its favorite son in ways that sometimes border on the bizarre, as CBS correspondent Mo Rocca discovered in 2014.   Braving frigid temperatures, representatives from the city’s leading cultural institutions will gather at Millard Fillmore’s graveside to lay wreaths and ponder his legacy.

They will linger over his time in office as well as his role in founding the University of Buffalo, where  Fillmore served as chancellor until his death in 1874.   But one aspect of his life usually elicits little more than a fleeting mention in this ceremony — his role in the passage of the notorious Fugitive Slave Act.

By pushing this compromise, Fillmore capitulated to the demands of the slave-holding South, fractured his party and helped set the stage for secession a decade later.   But he also triggered acts of defiance among many in his home town of Buffalo — a defiance that deserves commemorating at least as much as his own actions.

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