Legacies links for September 25, 2023: Hispanic Heritage Month, the wealth gap, updates from the CIC network

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Here are some links to help explore the complex intersections between Latino/a/x/e people and the legacies of American slavery. (As always, the editorial team here at the Legacies blog encourages you to share the post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.)

A stereo photograph showing the harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico
“Overlooking the Harbor, San Juan, Porto Rico” (1900). image source: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL

Hispanic Heritage Month:

  • Lisa Herndon, “Slavery Ended in Puerto Rico 150 Years Ago. Examine the Island’s History from Former Spanish Colony to U.S. Territory,” Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (September 12, 2023): LINK. Slavery-related documents from Puerto Rico and other primary sources from Afro-Latino scholars like Arturo Schomburg trace the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.
  • Gabriel Arana, “My Great-Grandfather Was a Racist,” Texas Observer (September 4, 2023): LINK. The “ignoble legacy” of a Mexican ancestor who “led a vicious campaign against the Chinese … in the early 1900” becomes a meditation on white supremacy: “Once we take down Confederate statues, Texans must still grapple with monsters in the past.”
  • Iván Román, “How Salsa Music Took Root in New York City,” History (August 17, 2023): LINK. During the 1940s and 1950s, Cuban music with roots in Africa “melded into the city’s vibrant big band jazz scene” to create salsa, “the essence of the Latino soul.”
  • Patricia Guadalupe, “6 Groups that Advanced Latino Voting Rights,” History (August 17, 2023): LINK. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which most people associate with voting rights for African Americans, also secured the franchise to Latino voters who had also been subject to school segregation and challenges to American citizenship. This remains a continuing challenge for historically underrepresented communities.
  • Iker Seisdedos, “The Underground Railroad of the south: The unknown story of the slaves who fled to Mexico,” El País (August 16, 2023): LINK. A recent book by Alice Baumgartner, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War (Basic Books, 2022), reveals that there was an Underground Railroad that helped fugitives escape to Mexico—a forgotten chapter in the Mexican-American story.
  • Geraldo Cadava, “The Rise of Latino White Supremacy,” The New Yorker (May 30, 2023): LINK (a free account may be required for access). In the wake of a Texas shooting earlier this spring, the author challenges the assumption that violent Latino offenders always see themselves as white when they enact violence against others.
  • Cecilia Márquez, “The Long and Violent History of Anti-Black Racism in the Latino Community,” New York Times (May 12, 2023): LINK (a free account may be required for access). Racial violence isn’t just about binary Black-and-White race relations. In research that tracks Far Right violence against African Americans by Latinos, the author explores the often misunderstood story of Latino political alignment.
  • Jean Guerrero, “My Black ancestors were erased from my family’s memory. But I found them,” San Diego Union-Tribune (February 13, 2023): LINK. After prodding her grandmother for weeks, the author finally learns the truth about her Puerto Rican great grandmother: she was Afro-Puerto Rican. “Black identity is often framed as a negative.”

Updates from the CIC Network:

  • Fred Johnson, “With Their Own Eyes,” Hope College (September 20, 2023): LINK. When winter storms forced the cancellation of a history class trip to Harper’s Ferry, three students at CIC member Hope College (Holland, MI) decided to learn all they could about abolitionist John Brown and then organize their own trip.
  • Jacob Holmes, “Leader of DOJ Civil Rights Division delivers remarks at Miles College convocation,” Alabama Political Reporter (September 15, 2023): LINK. Kristen Clarke, the first woman to serve as assistant attorney general for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, addressed the students at Miles College (Fairfield, AL), a CIC member institution and HBCU. She “highlighted the college’s place in the Civil Rights Movement” and its origins in the wake of the Civil War.
  • Daniel Silliman and Kate Shellnutt, “Wheaton College Releases Report on Its History of Racism,” Christianity Today (September 14, 2023): LINK. A task force of trustees, faculty, staff, students, and alumni “reconstructed the history of race relations from Wheaton’s founding [by Illinois abolitionists] in 1853” to the present. Among other steps to reckon and repair a very mixed historical record, the college will remove the name of a former president from the campus library.

Bonus Links:

  • Ellora Derenoncourt, et al., “Wealth of Two Nations: The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap, 1860-2020,” Quarterly Journal of Economics (September 2023): https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjad044 (download the full text of a preprint version). Based on a detailed review of the academic literature and original analysis of various datasets, the authors conclude that “The racial wealth gap is the largest of the economic disparities between Black and white Americans, with a white-to-Black capita wealth ration of 6 to 1. It is also among the most persistent.”
  • Ed Rampell, “Filmmaker Connects Dots Between Fugitive Slave Law and Modern-Day ‘Karens,’” Truthout (September 20, 2023): LINK. The latest documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Stanley Nelson adds to the ongoing conversation about police violence and brutality against Black people. He traces the line from pre-Civil War slave patrols to Black Lives Matter.
  • Murk Seymour, “A legacy of racial inequality before the law in Wisconsin,” PBS (September 19, 2023): LINK. A segment from NPR’s “Here & Now” addresses racial disparities in the criminal justice system and how Wisconsinites are providing support in their own communities.