The ‘Ferociously Contested’ Story of How Blackness Became a Legal Identity

In Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana, Colonial Laws Defining ‘Freedom’ Still Affected the Status of Citizens Centuries Later

How did Africans become “blacks” in the Americas?

Those who were forced into the ships of the infamous slave trade probably thought of themselves using ethnic and territorial terms that have been lost to us. But across the ocean, enslavers and local elites lumped Africans of many different backgrounds into a single category of debasement, “Negroes,” and sustained this category through laws that regulated freedom.

But the creation of racial identity through legal means took some surprising turns.

From the beginning, enslaved people and free people of African ancestry used those …

To Black Athletes, Donald Trump Is Playing the Dozens

This Time, the Age-Old Game of Exchanging Insults Will Have No Winner

President Donald Trump did not say, “Yo’ mama!” in front of a partisan Huntsville, Alabama audience. But he might as well have because that is what athletes heard directed at …

How African Americans Emerged from Slavery with a Hunger for Education

From Plantations to Churches to the Classroom, Ex-Slaves Tirelessly Pursued Public Schooling

The focus of my research and writing is women’s involvement in higher education, especially women from the Pentecostal and Holiness faith traditions. While conducting research on African American female seminaries, …

Why Has America Named So Many Places After a French Nobleman?

The Marquis de Lafayette's Name Graces More City Parks and Streets Than Perhaps Any Other Foreigner

If you live in the United States, you’ve probably come across a county, city, street, park, school, shop, or restaurant named for Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), …

Mitchell Duneier Explains the Invention of the Ghetto, as Place and as Idea

The Zócalo Book Prize Winner Discusses the Evolution of Ethnic Enclaves, from Renaissance Europe to the Modern U.S.

When sociologist Mitchell Duneier was growing up in the 1960s, he said, “references to the word ghetto were references in my house and in my segregated Jewish community on Long …

The Ghetto’s Complex and Troubled Legacy

Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea

In 2017, we often hear the word “ghetto” come up in music lyrics and casual conversation, out of the mouths of politicians and activists. We know what it means; it …