Reclaiming the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American History in the 21st Century

Reclaiming the Black Past: The Use and Misuse of African American History in the 21st Century

by Pero G. Dagbovie


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The past and future of Black history

In this information-overloaded twenty-first century, it seems impossible to fully discern or explain how we know about the past. But two things are certain. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all think historically on a routine basis. And our perceptions of history, including African American history, have not necessarily been shaped by professional historians.

In this wide-reaching and timely book, Pero Gaglo Dagbovie argues that public knowledge and understanding of black history, including its historical icons, has been shaped by institutions and individuals outside academic ivory towers. Drawing on a range of compelling examples, Dagbovie explores how, in the twenty-first century, African American history is regarded, depicted, and juggled by diverse and contesting interpreters—from museum curators to filmmakers, entertainers, politicians, journalists, and bloggers.

Underscoring the ubiquitous nature of African-American history in contemporary American thought and culture, each chapter unpacks how black history has been represented and remembered primarily during the “Age of Obama,” the so-called era of “post-racial” American society. Reclaiming the Black Past is Dagbovie's contribution to expanding how we understand African American history during the new millennium.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786632036
Publisher: Verso Books
Publication date: 11/13/2018
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Pero Gaglo Dagbovie is professor of African American history and Associate Dean in The Graduate School, Michigan State University. His research and teaching interests comprise a range time periods, themes, and topical specialties, including black intellectual history, the history of the black historical enterprise, black women's history, black life during "the Nadir," the civil rights-Black Power movement, African American Studies, hip hop culture, and contemporary black history. His books include Black History: "Old School" Black Historians and the Hip Hop Generation (Bedford Publishers, Inc., 2006), The Early Black History Movement, Carter G. Woodson, and Lorenzo Johnston Greene (University of Illinois Press, 2007), African American History Reconsidered (University of Illinois Press, 2010), Carter G. Woodson in Washington, D.C.: The Father of Black History (The History Press, 2014), and What is African American History? (Polity Press: Cambridge, UK, 2015). He is on the editorial boards of The Journal for the Study of Radicalism and The Journal of Black Studies and is a lifetime member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Enduring Mystique of Black History vii

1 "None of Our Hands Are Entirely Clean" Obama and the Challenge of African American History 1

2 Honoring "The Gift of Black Folk": The Contested Meaning of Black History Month 39

3 Dramatizing the Black Past: Twenty-first Century Hollywood Portrayals of Black History 77

4 "Everything is Funny?": Humor, Black History, and African American Comedians 115

5 "So Long in Coming": Political and Legal Attempts to Right Past Wrongs 155

Afterword: Displaying the Black Past 195

Index 211

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