Faculty Explore Challenges of Race and Violence
Drs. Gema Kloppe-Santamaría and Ben Johnson have chapters in a new anthology titled Reverberations of Racial Violence: Critical Reflections on the History of the Border, out this summer with the University of Texas Press. Below is Dr. Johnson's summary of the two pieces and their collaborative origins:
The book’s contents were first presented and circulated for a conference sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities held at the Bullock Museum of History in 2019 to mark the centennial of the so-called "Canales Hearings," a legislative inquest into the role of the Texas Rangers into the horrific racial violence that characterized the Texas side of the US-Mexico borderlands in the 1910s. Together the essays (augmented by two poems and a forward and epilogue) explore this historical moment, which is all the more resonant because of contemporary efforts to grapple with racist state violence, and its enduring legacies for Mexican American social life and politics.
In her essay, "Representation, Refusal, and Remembrance: Lynching and Extralegal Violence in Mexico and the United States, 1890s-1930s," Dr. Kloppe-Santamaría explores media coverage of U.S. lynchings in Mexico and Mexican lynchings in the United States, showing how the practice became a marker of the presence or absence of civilization. In both countries, if in somewhat different ways, the horrific practice of mob violence (so often supported by the state) helped to create national identities around "law and order" -- a process still underway on both sides of the border.
In my co-authored essay "Refusing to Forget: A Brief History," I trace the history of Refusing to Forget, which is an organization founded in 2013 that seeks to commemorate the violence of the 1910s in service of interracial democracy today. We sketch the violence of the 1910s, Representative J.T. Canales' frustrated efforts to hold some of its perpetrators accountable, and the ways in which we and other scholars, artists, and descendants have achieved a measure of success in recent years despite sometimes ferocious resistance.
One bittersweet note: the Bullock Museum’s director, who contributed a piece about their work with Refusing to Forget on an exhibition that ran in 2016, has recently been undermined by the state's Lieutenant Governor, who forced the cancellation of a book-signing event because he was troubled by (and apparently unable to deal with) the argument that the defense of slavery played a key role in Texas' 1836 revolution.
Professor of History Emeritus Dr. Lew Erenberg's book The Rumble in the Jungle: Muhammad Ali and George Foreman on the Global Stage (University of Chicago) was recently published in paperback edition. Dr. Erenberg's book provides a global perspective on the tremendous sporting event, firmly grounding the match in contemporary cultural dramas like the American Civil Rights movement and "the rise of Islamic and African liberation efforts." (University of Chicago Press)
Dr. Elliot Gorn published Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till in 2018 with Oxford Univeristy Press. The book "examines shifting American attitudes towards race since 1955, presenting a timely look at the interaction between race and the media." Dr. Gorn explores "how and why the story of Emmett Till still resonates, and always will. Till's murder marked a turning point, Gorn shows, and yet also reveals how old patterns of thought and behavior endure, and why we must look hard at them." (Oxford University Press)