African American History

Chronicling “America’s African Instrument”: Laurent Dubois on the Cultural History of the Banjo

In The Banjo: America’s African Instrument (Harvard Univ. Press, 2016), Laurent Dubois weaves a narrative of how this instrument was created by enslaved Africans in the midst of bondage in the Caribbean and Americas. He documents its journey from 17th- and 18th-century plantations to 19th-century minstrel shows to the bluegrass of Appalachia to the folk revival of the mid-20th century. In the process, Dubois documents how the banjo came to symbolize community, slavery, resistance, and ultimately America itself. A historian of the Caribbean and a banjo player himself, Dubois relied on the work of academic historians as well as insights from musicians, collectors, and banjo makers to tell this story.

#SayHerName: The LA Uprising, 25 Years Later

By Brenda E. Stevenson

“No justice, no peace!” was the anthem of the day in late April 1992 in Los Angeles as local blacks, Latinos/as, and even a sprinkling of Asian Americans and whites joined in the five day “rebellion” that purportedly underscored the injustice of the verdict in the Rodney King police brutality trial. It ended with a devastating toll of losses—54 deaths, more than 2,300 injuries, 3,600 fires, 1,100 buildings destroyed, 4,500 businesses looted, more than 12,000 arrested, and $1 billion in damage.

“Come Let Us Build a New World Together”: The SNCC Digital Gateway

By Lauren Tilton

It can be challenging to teach about the civil rights movement. For many reasons, from time constraints to lack of access to archives, the liberation struggle is often framed through its most prominent leader, Martin Luther King Jr. Now, thanks to a partnership between Duke University and the SNCC Legacy Project, an organization comprised of SNCC participants, teachers have access to the SNCC Digital Gateway.