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 …

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How Native American Artists Are Claiming the Future

Across the Arts, Indigenous Creators Are Drawing From the Past to Imagine Different Paths Forward

Over the last 50 years, futurity has become an important theme among native people and artists, said Harvard historian Philip J. Deloria during a Zócalo event entitled “How Are Native …

How Modern India Was Built on the Legacy of British Institutions

Indians Have Drawn From a Dark Colonial Past to Create a More Liberal and Open Society

In the years after India’s independence in 1947, Britons tended to congratulate themselves on their legacy to the subcontinent.

Although the empire’s successor states, India and Pakistan, had been born amid …

What Hawaii Taught This Midwesterner About Her Own Identity

A Nebraska Historian Explores a State's Racial Hierarchy Through the Lives of Missionary Children

I was 16 when I first visited the islands. A skinny, white girl with a bad perm, I became red as a lobster after spending one week on Maui.

I …

How Tea Became a Weapon in Darjeeling’s Ethnic Struggle

An Indian Minority's Push for Independence Has Roots in the British Empire's Divide and Conquer Policies

Darjeeling tea is a world-renowned product that reliably flows from India’s highlands, where it has been grown for more than a century. But since early this summer, none of it …