Legacies links for January 17, 2023: Dr. King on campus, ancient DNA, environmental justice, and more

We took a break on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but the day after is still a good time to consider the history of social structures and systems that still pummel so many marginalized Americans. As always, we encourage you to share this post. A link here does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.

A rendering of The Embrace, a new memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr., unveiled last week on the Boston Common. The memorial, located within the 1965 Freedom Plaza, “reminds viewers of our shared humanity and honors King’s ideal of fostering a ‘beloved community.’”
Source: Embrace Boston

This week’s curated links:

  • Cynthia Greenlee, “The Doctor and the Confederate,” Smithsonian Magazine (January/February 2023): LINK. Alexander Darnes, one of Florida’s first Black doctors, was also the property of Kirby Smith, a prominent Confederate general. Upon Smith’s death, his wife petitioned Darnes, by then a freedman and practicing doctor, to write a few words memorializing the Confederate general. In an astounding archival find, Darnes wrote over 20 pages detailing Smith as a “Christian gentleman” with the “heart of a nobleman.” Such a letter has confounded historians ever since.
  • Rebecca DeWolf, “In ‘The Third Reconstruction,’ Peniel E. Joseph Outlines the U.S. Struggle for Racial Justice in the 21st Century,” Ms. (January 15, 2023): LINK. An excellent summary of historian Peniel Joseph’s latest book, which shows “that not only is the personal political, but the past is too.”
  • Karli Winfrey, “‘Slavery Trails’ exhibit joins the past with the future in augmented reality,” Verite News (January 10, 2023): LINK. An interesting experiment in augmented reality by artist Marcus Brown, designed to make the history of slavery more accessible to the people of New Orleans (starting with the notable history of Solomon Northrup).
  • Jared Sharpe, “National UMass Amherst Poll Surveys Americans’ Views on Race, Antisemitism and the ‘Great Replacement Theory,’” University of Massachusetts Amherst (January 13, 2023): LINK. Many White Americans are anxious (even fearful) about conversations surrounding reparations, cultural change, and political change. This fear “makes many Americans more susceptible to racism, xenophobia and antisemitism.”
  • Raquel E. Fleskes, et al., “Community-engaged ancient DNA project reveals diverse origins of 18th-century African descendants in Charleston, South Carolina,” PNAS (January 9, 2023): LINK. A team of researchers performed DNA testing on the remains of African descendants buried in a Charleston cemetery, which they describe as ‘dating from the late eighteenth century. The researchers believe that ancient DNA research is a “critical step towards building an ethical framework for the field of paleogenomics.”
  • Danny McArthur, “In the fight for environmental justice, Birmingham tells Jackson to stay loud,” Mississippi Public Broadcasting (January 5, 2023): LINK. In the Gulf South, Black activists in Jackson, MS, and Birmingham, AL, advocate for environmental justice after years of (segregated) air and water pollution.
  • Deion Scott Hawkins, “Not all insurrections are equal—for enslaved Americans, it was the only option,” The Conversation (January 5, 2023): LINK. The author takes up Herbert Aptheker’s radical argument that slave rebellions should be classified as insurrections: “Insurrections were among the only tools enslaved people had for social change and, ultimately, freedom.”

And in honor of Dr. King, we remember a few of the visits he made to CIC member colleges:

Martin Luther King, Jr. with Goshen College faculty, 1960. Source: Goshen College
  • “Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Cornell College,” Cornell College: LINK. In 1962, King addressed the students, faculty, and staff of Cornell College in Iowa, beginning with the question: “Are we making any real progress in the area of race relations?” Wary of leaving the Cornell students with an unfounded optimism, King addressed the pressing issues of the early 1960s, ending with his familiar and universal call to “love your enemies.”
  • Richard R. Aguirre, “Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Goshen College in 1960 inspired the entire campus,” Goshen College: LINK. Dr. King’s visit to Indiana’s Goshen College nearly did not happen. Detailing what it took to welcome the famed leader to campus in 1960, this article (which leans heavily on the college archive) recaptures King’s brief visit to campus.
  • “Where was MLK’s last campus address?” Manchester University: LINK. Just two months before his assassination, King spoke about “The Future of Integration” at Manchester University (also in Indiana).
  • “Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks at Oakwood University”: LINK. In 1962, King visited Oakwood College (now University)—an HBCU affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church—because it was the only venue in Huntsville, AL, that would host him. Notably, his speech rehearsed the “let it ring from…” refrain that King would re-use in his “I Have a Dream” speech a year later.