Friday, February 15, 2019

Black History from the United States

I've been busy enough, but mostly I post when something seems worth posting.  A ten-day hiatus on posts to this site makes me think CanHist must be in the doldrums right now. Amirite? Not much doing in the way of major publications, to my knowledge, and not many interesting news breaks, either, 'tseems.

Recently I volunteered to receive an advance reading copy of Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation by the American journalist Steve Luxenburg  (pub. date February 12)  Unfortunately it's a digital copy with every page massively watermarked  "Property of WW Norton Not for Distribution," which makes it practically unreadable -- and indeed I have not read much of it. 

But it's pretty impressive: a vivid 600 page narrative around the events that provoked the landmark 1896 law suit in which the American Supreme Court declared that "separate but equal" facilities for whites and non-whites were perfectly acceptable and did not undermine the equality rights of black Americans. Plessy was launched by a committee of black New Orleanais who hoped to see the endlessly ramifying discrimination against newly freed ex-slaves stopped dead by a successful suit against the "Whites Only" cars of American railroads. The Supreme Court voted 7-1 against Plessy (and the one vote opposed was no triumph of rights-talk, either), and segregation rules for another half century and more.

Wikipedia reports that Plessy is widely regarded as one of the worst decisions in U.S. Supreme Court history. (But Brett Kavanaugh is just getting started.)

Who in Canada is even trying to write big books like these?  And who would buy 'em if they did? 
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