At first glance, this month’s selection of books from the DePaul Library collection don’t appear to be thematically related: two are about cities, and the third explores a little-known history of gun ownership in the United States. On closer reading, the common thread in all three books are the contributions of African Americans to the nation’s cultural and economic history, and the long struggle for civil rights both in the rural South and industrial North.
Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker, editors of Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, explain their choice of title in the book’s introduction. New Orleans is unfathomable, in both the historic and nautical sense, since much of the city rests barely above sea level . In Nathaniel Rich’s macabre essay “Moves, Remains” (p. 34), even the dead find it difficult to remain on dry land. High ground water makes it nearly impossible for murder victims to remain hidden, while flooding sometimes causes coffins to pop out of mausoleums and canoe down the street. African American culture and music is an intrinsic part of New Orleans history, and the wonderful map “Repercussions: Rhythm and Resistance Across the Atlantic” (p. 98) traces the introduction of the poly-rhythmic music of African slaves to the new world and its influence on resistance movements on both sides of the ocean. Yoruban drumming begets Jazz and Hip-hop, both in turn inspiring new musical forms in post-colonial Africa. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number 912.76335 S688U
In 1963, Detroit was on the top of the world. Executives at Ford prepared to unveil a ground-breaking model, the Mustang. The Detroit Olympic Committee was confidently presenting their case for hosting the 1968 summer games. Berry
Gordy’s Motortown Revue, featuring artists such as Little Stevie Wonder and The Supremes, had just completed a highly successful tour. Despite these public triumphs, the city was rapidly losing residents. In a Wayne State University study, researchers predicted that Detroit would lose one-quarter of its 1960 population by the year 1970. Most of those fleeing to suburban Wayne County were employed white taxpayers. In Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story, author David Maraniss muses on the year 1963: “Composition and decomposition. Detroit dying and thriving at the same time.” His deft 18-month snapshot reveals portents of the city’s collapse which were largely ignored at the time. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, Haber Lounge, call number 977.434 M325O2015
An African American farmer once told the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “This nonviolent stuff ain’t no good. It’ll get ya killed.” (p.7) He wasn’t suggesting that Rev. King resort to violent activism, but to instead be prepared for armed self-defense. According to Charles E. Cobb, author of This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, many civil rights leaders and activists who publicly practiced nonviolence also kept firearms for self-protection. It was a pragmatic choice. In 1964, Ku Klux Klan membership soared to nearly 10,000 in Mississippi alone. In June of that year, three civil rights volunteers were kidnapped and murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Cobb traces the history of African American gun ownership from the late antebellum era (where a secret organization of free black firearm owners planned an armed invasion of the slave-holding territories) to the doctrine of armed resistance in the Black Power movement of the late 1960s. Available at the John T. Richardson Library, call number 323.1196073 C6531t2014