Category Archives: Activist Historian

March 21, 2013, 12:32 pm

Stop and Frisk: Report on Floyd v. City of New York

stop_frisk_061712-thumb-640xauto-6263Tenured Radical is currently out of the country.  Today we turn this space over to Rachel Jane Liebert, a Ph.D. candidate in critical social/personality psychology at the Graduate Center, and member of CUNY’s Public Science Project. Below, Liebert  is reports on day 2 of  Floyd v. City of New York (notes from day 1 are here.) This trial that may determine whether the New York City police department can continue its policy of stopping and frisking young men without probably cause. 

After the crowds of yesterday, I arrived at the courtroom embarrassingly early this morning and spent an hour or so smitten with the view out of the fifteenth floor windows of 500 Pearl Street. Wearing a hat of mist, the scattered snow-scene of downtown Manhattan was beautiful and meditative. It seemed twisted that I could find peace in the phallus of a system that pours people into cages. Perhaps…

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February 26, 2013, 10:14 am

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Crowdfunding

kickstartingToday’s guest blogger, Dan Royles is a doctoral candidate in history at Temple University. He is currently a dissertation fellow at the Center for Historical Research at the Ohio State University. Update: Due to your generosity, Dan raised almost a thousand dollars more than his goal by the deadline.

For almost a month, I’ve been using Kickstarter to raise money for my oral history project on African American AIDS activism. I’m a doctoral student in history writing a dissertation on the same topic, and as with many projects on the recent past, archival sources are relatively thin. But fortunately, although the HIV epidemic in black communities has claimed many of the very people who fought to stop it over the past thirty years, others are still around and eager to share their stories, so doing oral histories makes a lot of sense. I wanted to undertake a full-fledged oral…

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August 24, 2012, 4:48 pm

Money Boys Got A Boo-Boo, Want Barack To Kiss It

In this week’s New Yorker, political reporter Jane Mayer unveils what we at Tenured Radical are not learning from those fifteen or sixteen robo-mails that come off the interwebz and onto our desktop: the Obama campaign is behind on its fundraising primarily because liberal-minded billionaires who floated the campaign in 2008 are unhappy.

“But they are billionaires, Radical!” you say — astonished. “Why are the billionaires unhappy?”

Apparently it has nothing to do with Obamacare or the tax code. It’s about parties. It’s about showing the love. According to his critics in the Hamptons, Malibu and Palo Alto, the President doesn’t call to schmooze, doesn’t drop them notes, and doesn’t send bar mitzvah cards.  He doesn’t do endless “grip ‘n grin photos” that donors spend 10K for so that they can pretend to their friends that they are Barack O’Buddies. He doesn’t call the…

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June 8, 2012, 2:53 pm

The Answer to Folks Dissing the Field of African American History….

Mary Church Terrell, @ 1940. Photo Credit: Tennessee State Library and Archives

….Is more African American history, of course. In the wake of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s ignorant and widely criticized blog post mocking young female scholars just beginning their work in this rich field, so many responses come to mind.

Riley, who seemed to have been genuinely surprised at how poorly the idea of closing African American Studies department was received, responds to her critics here and here.  In both pieces she seems to be arguing that having a political viewpoint about a field entitles you to criticize anything and everything about it, as if you had actually read the scholarship. She also suggests that, as a journalist who is not an academic, she should not be held to standards of accuracy when she…

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May 17, 2012, 2:00 pm

Th-th-th-th-th-that’s All, Folks! Speech Quirks That Work?

Is perfect public speaking really best?

I have received a lot of thoughtful reactions to the TEDx talk posted below, not only in the comments section, but in private communications as well.  Responding to one new colleague who wrote me a gracious note, I admitted that I was a little self-conscious about the “ums” and “ahs” that punctuate my performance.

The more I have participated in visual and aural media as a scholar, the harder I have worked to eliminate speech quirks that I find distracting and amateurish.  Everything is now memorialized on line, and anything not said well on the first take is recorded forever.  Some of my performances sound embarrassingly unpolished to my own ear, and are discouragingly unlike the confident, fluent PBS Newshour talking head that I long to be.  As I listen to …

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May 9, 2012, 9:45 pm

Let’s Go To The Videotape

In case you missed this on April 14 2012 (which you did if you weren’t one of about 200 people at TEDx Connecticut College, “Rethinking Progress”) my talk just got posted to the TED site by the fabulous students who put on this event. Enjoy. And admit it: like me, you’re grading. You don’t want to read anyway.

April 20, 2012, 12:19 am

Hey Babe, It’s OAH Day One: Public History Rock and Roll

Photo credit

I was sitting in the lobby of the Milwaukee Hilton and a civilian came up to me.  “Hey,” he said: “Have I seen you on the History Channel?”

“Uh, probably,” I said.  There are three different documentaries about crime in the 1930s that feature me as a talking head.  From time to time, someone makes the connection:  the working class family who lives across the street, a small child on the subway, and my all-time favorite, the men at the men’s shelter on Third Street in lower Manhattan. Because of this, I think the History Channel is one of the most popular enterprises ever created: not only do people love history, but I suspect that institutions – prisons, shelters, halfway houses – leave it on all the time because it is completely non-controversial.

“But you know …

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April 8, 2012, 12:53 pm

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall, Who Is The Smartest Historian of All?

I am currently operating about a month behind on much of my professional mail because of the job-switch thing.  Therefore, it wasn’t until I was riding the train last week that I picked up on American Historical Association President William Cronon’s article, “Professional Boredom” (Perspectives on History, March 2012, 6-7.)  Without explicitly linking his thoughts to the job crisis, Cronon raises some issues about how we evaluate the quality of historical work, and what the consequences of defining the category of “good history” might be.

Cronon’s piece reminded me of a turn of phrase that irritates me more the older I get, which is characterizing a scholar or a piece of work by that scholar as “smart.” Most of us do it, but it either means nothing (original? well done? fun to read?) or it means way too much (“I have put X in the smart bin and that is that.”) What is worse is to…

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March 31, 2012, 4:20 pm

Republican Policy for Higher Ed: Starve It, Bleed It — While You’re At It, Build A Football Stadium

Those of you who have friends at Rutgers University, New Jersey’s flagship R-I, know that, like many public institutions, it has had to absorb deep cuts in state funding over the past few years:  last year it lost 15% of its budget.

Those of us who have been in the position of managing cuts at the departmental and divisional level for the last few years have all kinds of stories to tell. Personnel cuts are often directed at the most vulnerable workers: remaining secretarial staff and administrative assistants have to take on more work; food, sanitation and maintenance services get “outsourced” to for-profit companies; and the adjunct teaching force is cut (see how flexible it is to hire faculty by the course?  Milton Friedman told you this was a good idea!) Best case scenario for all non-administrative staff is that positions vacated through retirement or other voluntary means (this…

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March 19, 2012, 7:29 pm

Yes Virginia, I Really Publish On Paper Too

Today my editor wrote to say that he was actually holding our new book in his hand! It was the hardback edition, which I think is worth your eyeteeth to own if you are not on a library acquisitions budget.  Soon, however, the University of Georgia Press will be rolling out and shipping copies of Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History That Talks Back for the mean, lean paperback price of $22.95.  Reserve yours by clicking the link above; by going to Powell’s (where you can see the whole table of contents and register to win free books by commenting on ours); or Amazon (where you save no money, get no table of contents, but may qualify for free shipping.)

Better yet, why don’t you mosey into your local independent and/or university bookstore and say, “YO! Where’s that book edited by Potter and Romano…

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