Race and Class at the Nadir: Framing African American Life in the Late Nineteenth-Century South

Sunday, January 5, 2014: 8:30 AM
Marriott Balcony B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Brian Kelly, Queen's University Belfast
Cutting against a formerly influential historiography that chronicled the desperation and precariousness of black life in the post-reconstruction South, scholarship over the past thirty years has instead turned to an emphasis on enduring black agency, the "thickening" of black institutional life, racial uplift and entrepreneurialism. In this paper Brian Kelly explores the evolution of this new body of historical scholarship, from its origins in a radical, corrective challenge aimed at countering earlier depictions of black passivity to a moderate rendering of the past compatible with renascent free market ideology. Insisting on the continued importance of the 'labor question' for understanding the nineteenth-century South, Kelly will outline the elements of a more rigorous framework for interpreting black life at the nadir and offer some thoughts on new possibilities for research and interpretation.
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