Q&A: ‘The Sword and the Shield’ author shares how Malcolm X and MLK had more in common than is often believed

image of author and book coverThe metaphorical meaning behind the title of Peniel Joseph’s new book “The Sword and the Shield” (Basic Books, 2020) may seem obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of the civil rights movement: The shield represents Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent quest for radical citizenship, and the sword represents Malcolm X’s bold pursuit for Black dignity by any means necessary.

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This book has been selected for this fall’s UT Reads campaign! You can read more about it on the Human Resources website.

Yet a deeper look into the personal and political journeys of these civil rights icons shows us a different side of the story. We caught up with Joseph, the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, during his book tour to learn more about the contrasting and, at times, overlapping political ideologies of Malcolm X and King—and how they both brought the sword and the shield to the fight for Black freedom and equality.

Why is it so important to look back at this history to understand what we’re seeing out in the streets?
 
It’s vitally important because Malcolm X and Dr. King were active in America’s second reconstruction. Now I think we’re entering the third reconstruction, and we need to have an understanding of how we got to this point. The title of this book is a metaphor for Malcolm X being the political sword and Dr. King being the political shield. But really, they’re both; they want to defend lives, and they’re willing to courageously speak truth to power no matter the consequences. Looking back at this point in history helps us reimagine democracy today to push for racial justice.

Did you come across anything new or surprising in your research?

I didn’t know the extent of Malcolm X’s support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act until I further looked into his visit to the U.S. Senate, when he and Dr. King had their first and only meeting during a filibuster. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Penn Warren later interviewed Malcolm X for his book “Who Speaks for the Negro?” and asked him what he thought of Dr. King. Malcolm told him they shared the same goals; they had different methods, but they both wanted human dignity.

I also didn’t know, until doing this research, that Malcolm X actually sat in on a speech that Dr. King gave in Harlem on Dec. 17, 1964, and later praised that speech to his own group. A couple months later, he tried to visit Dr. King in jail during the voting rights protests in Selma. He wasn’t allowed to visit, but he did speak with Coretta Scott King after delivering a speech to let her know that he wanted to help the voting rights act succeed. So there really was much more convergence with them in terms of dignity and human rights.

How, in your opinion, can Black Lives Matter advocates see themselves in both Malcolm X and King?

Malcolm X and Dr. King both faced police brutality and wanted a transformation of the criminal justice system. Malcolm X was in talks with the New York Police Department to stop racially profiling and to stop the no-knock and stop-and-frisk policies. Dr. King fought for this, too, in Harlem and Los Angeles. They didn’t succeed, so you have this whole other generation over 50 years later saying they don’t want to live like this. They don’t want to have this kind of punishment and criminalization at the expense of tens of millions of people.

Dr. King said in his final speech, “The greatness of America is the right to protest for right.” That makes us the country that we are—freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the idea that when there’s a grand mistake, we can correct it collectively.

What would you like your readers to take away from this book?

I want people to better explain the movement and to help others realize we’ve been here before. We’ve had opportunities in the past and movements of real progress, but then we get fatigued. There have been movements of urban rebellions, civil disturbances and race riots, but instead of finding the root origins of these problems, we went in the other direction of mass incarceration and demonization. We chose law and order over the good of the beloved community.

That path that we took brought us here—52 years after Dr. King’s death—where we are racially segregated, impoverished and massively divided. I’d like for people to understand that we were here before, we’ve made the wrong choice, and we have the opportunity now to make the right choice. We have to transform policy, and we have to transform hearts and minds and understand that antiracism and racial justice is a constant lifetime of work.

Dr. King used to say that the civil rights movement was about redeeming the nation’s soul, and I think he was absolutely right. At the core, we are absolutely good, but if we aren’t vigilant, we can do terrible things to each other.

Watch him discuss his new book in this Q&A produced by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

 

‘The Defeat of Black Power,’ a Must-Read for the 2020 Election Season

As the 2020 election heats up, we are highlighting “The Defeat of Black Power,” authored by Leonard N. Moore, vice president for diversity and community engagement and the George Littlefield Professor of American History.

There are lessons that can be learned from examining two critical points in American history: the National Black Political Convention of 1972 and the 2020 Presidential Election. The book illustrates how themes of equal rights, social activism and political polarization are as relevant today as they were many decades ago. Visit the LSU Press website to learn more.


For three days in 1972 in Gary, Indiana, eight thousand American civil rights activists and Black Power leaders gathered at the National Black Political Convention, hoping to end a years-long feud that divided black America into two distinct camps: integrationists and separatists. While some form of this rift existed within black politics long before the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., his death—and the power vacuum it created—heightened tensions between the two groups, and convention leaders sought to merge these competing ideologies into a national, unified call to action. What followed, however, effectively crippled the Black Power movement and fundamentally altered the political strategy of civil rights proponents. An intense and revealing history, Leonard N. Moore’s The Defeat of Black Power: Civil Rights and the National Black Political Convention of 1972provides the first in-depth evaluation of this critical moment in American history.

During the brief but highly charged meeting in March 1972, attendees confronted central questions surrounding black people’s involvement in the established political system: reject or accept integration and assimilation; determine the importance or futility of working within the broader white system; and assess the perceived benefits of running for public office. These issues illuminated key differences between integrationists and separatists, yet both sides understood the need to mobilize under a unified platform of black self-determination. At the end of the convention, determined to reach a consensus, officials produced “The National Black Political Agenda,” which addressed the black constituency’s priorities. While attendees and delegates agreed with nearly every provision, integrationists maintained their rejection of certain planks, namely the call for a U.S. constitutional convention and separatists’ demands for reparations. As a result, black activists and legislators withdrew their support less than ten weeks after the convention, dashing the promise of the 1972 assembly and undermining the prerogatives of black nationalists.

In The Defeat of Black Power, Moore shows how the convention signaled a turning point for the Black Power movement, whose leaders did not hold elective office and were now effectively barred access to the levers of social and political power. Thereafter, their influence within black communities rapidly declined, leaving civil rights activists and elected officials holding the mantle of black political leadership in 1972 and beyond.

Faculty Book Talk: ‘The Price for Their Pound of Flesh’

Image of book Tonight Daina Berry, professor of history and African and African Diaspora Studies, will discuss her book “The Price for Their Pound of Flesh” (Beacon Press, ’17) at 6 p.m. in the Gordon-White Building.

The book is the culmination of more than ten years of Berry’s research on enslaved values, drawing on data unearthed from sources such as slave-trading records, insurance policies, cemetery records and life insurance policies. Writing with sensitivity and depth, she resurrects the voices of the enslaved and provides a rare window into enslaved peoples’ experiences and thoughts, revealing how enslaved people recalled and responded to being appraised, bartered and sold throughout the course of their lives. Reaching out from these pages, they compel the reader to bear witness to their stories, to see them as human beings, not merely commodities.

The event is free and open to the public.

New Book Illuminates Interdisciplinary Insights into National Security

image of book cover As the presidential election draws to a close, many voters are asking how our next president will handle national security threats. In a forthcoming book, “Sustainable Security: Rethinking American National Security Strategy,” co-editor Jeremi Suri brings this critical issue to the forefront.

The book (Oxford University Press, December 1, 2016) brings together 16 leading scholars from across political science, history, and political economy to highlight a range of American security considerations that deserve a larger role in both scholarship and strategic decision-making.

In these chapters, scholars of political economy and the American defense budget examine the economic engine that underlies U.S. military might and the ways the country deploys these vast (but finite) resources. Historians illuminate how past great powers coped with changing international orders through strategic and institutional innovations. And regional experts assess America’s current long-term engagements, from NATO to the chaos of the Middle East to the web of alliances in Asia, deepening understandings that help guard against both costly commitments and short-sighted retrenchments.

This interdisciplinary volume sets an agenda for future scholarship that links politics, economics, and history in pursuit of sustainable security for the United States – and greater peace and stability for Americans and non-Americans alike.

More about the co-editor: Jeremi Suri holds the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at UT Austin. He is a history professor in the College of Liberal Arts and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Suri is the author and editor of seven books on contemporary politics and foreign policy. His research and teaching have received numerous prizes. In 2007 Smithsonian Magazine named him one of America’s “Top Young Innovators” in the Arts and Sciences. His writings appear widely in blogs and print media. Suri is also a frequent public lecturer and guest on radio and television programs.

A Q&A with Dr. Victor Sáenz, Co-Editor of ‘Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education’

image of author While more Latinos are heading to college than ever before, Latino males lag behind other groups—even behind Latinas—in obtaining a four-year degree. To shed some light on this issue, a group of scholars from across the country published their research in a new book titled Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education (Stylus Publishing, Jan. 2016).

We sat down with Dr. Victor Sáenz, co-editor of the book and associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration, to learn more about the many complex factors that keep Latino males from succeeding in post-secondary education – and why bridging this persistent achievement gap is a national imperative.

What is causing Latino males to underestimate the value of a college degree?

First let me offer some data. While the number of Latinos attending college and attaining degrees has increased steadily in recent years, the proportional representation of Latino males enrolled in higher education continues to lag behind their female peers. In 2012, Latino males had the lowest high school graduation rates across all male ethnic groups, and more than 60 percent of all associate’s or bachelor’s degrees earned by Hispanics were earned by female students. These trends suggest that, compared to their peers, Latino males continue to face challenges in achieving critical higher education milestones.
That said, I wouldn’t necessarily conclude that Latino males are “underestimating” the value of a degree. Many simply find other means to make a living that may not include a higher education credential, perhaps because they feel a more immediate urgency to be a breadwinner or provider for their family.

Why is it an economic imperative to close this achievement gap?

One way to answer this is by considering the relationship between demographic trends and economic health. Because the Latina/o community is so young and is growing so rapidly in states like Texas and California, there’s a demographic reality that is winding its way through our schooling systems. That said, if half of the fastest-growing racial/ethnic group in the country is stubbornly lagging behind everyone else on key educational metrics, this persistent gap could have dire consequences on the long-term viability of our economy and our communities. Latino males in the workforce are concentrated in low-skilled, low-wage jobs, and they have more instability in their employment status. This translates into stunted economic opportunities for Latino males. When coupled with demographic trends this portends a dire economic outlook.

The book examines the factors that inhibit academic success for Latino males. Could you highlight a common barrier that keeps them from completing a post-secondary education?

One common barrier for Latino males that may keep them from completing a college degree is the financial pressures they may be facing to help contribute to their families. Because many are from working-class backgrounds, the immediate urge to join the labor force may outweigh the long-term gains that can flow from a higher education credential.

Research in the book covers an array of factors that promote Latino success in higher education. Could you give an example of one of those factors?

There are several factors we can spotlight. Increasing the achievement of Latino male students requires policy and programmatic interventions that attend to the needs of students both long before they arrive on campus and also immediately after they arrive. We should consider how support is extended through social networks (e.g., college access programs, financial aid). We should also carefully design “on-ramp” experiences for Latino male college students that immediately gets them engaged and connected on our college campuses. Finally, we should re-design our existing orientation and intervention programs with “men in mind”, mindful of the myriad challenges we may face to get Latino males engaged on our campuses.

You direct Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success), a student mentoring program in UT Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. How can programs such as this help increase Latino males’ college graduation rates?

Our Project MALES Student Mentoring Program is focused on the goal of enhancing Latino male academic success through near-peer mentoring, and to inspire others to take action and respond to the growing national imperative for Latino males in education.
The Project MALES Student Mentoring Program connects Latino male undergraduate students from UT Austin (and allies) with males of color in local area middle schools and high schools. We require all of our undergraduate student mentors to enroll in a service-learning course called Instructing Males through Peer Advising College Tracks (IMPACT). Once out in the field, our undergraduate mentors work on improving the college-going culture for young men of color while also providing a safe space for these students to discuss questions related to going to college. They discuss a variety of topics ranging from college preparation to financial literacy to the “soft” skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond.

Our Project MALES Student Mentoring Program can serve as a model for other institutions because we are leveraging the intellectual capital for the benefit of our local community while also providing a dynamic experiential learning experience for our undergraduate mentors.

Why is it important to raise national awareness about the educational crisis facing young Latino males?

This is an important time to raise awareness about the educational challenges facing Latino males because many national, state and local conversations are expanding the definition of males of color to include Latino males and other historically marginalized groups of male students. The shifting demographic reality represented by the growth of the Latina/o community also gives our focus on Latino males a singular urgency.

President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative has brought the educational challenges faced by male students of color to the forefront of education policy discussions. Launched in February 2014, the MBK initiative seeks to improve the educational and life outcomes for boys and young men of color. MBK has brought together public and private organizations, school districts, city leaders, community activists, scholars, students and families, and philanthropic organizations that have pledged a long-term commitment. All of these stakeholder groups represent key target audiences for our book.

Anything else you would like to add?

This book is an ambitious attempt to spark greater awareness and dialogue about Latino males, a fast-growing and increasingly important segment of our national population. It synthesizes the perspectives of new and emerging voices, including graduate students, academics, administrative professionals and higher education leaders. The contributing authors paint a complex portrait of the many factors that contribute to the educational experiences of Latino males in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education. This book represents a commitment to better understand the Latino male educational experience, and its contributors’ hope to parallel the broader and vibrant research agenda on male students of color in higher education. Finally, given the growing state and national imperative to “move the needle” on Latino male student success, this book is a call to action for researchers, educational practitioners, community activists and higher education leaders.

DDCE Researchers Expose the Myth of a Post-Racial America

RacialBattleFatigue_Lith1-400x600The notion that we live in a “colorblind society” is carefully dismantled in a new edition of Racial Battle Fatigue in Higher Education: Exposing the Myth of Post-Racial America (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Dec. 2014). Faculty from the DDCE are among several contributing authors examining an emerging body of research that suggests chronic exposure to racial discrimination can lead to a serious anxiety disorder.

In a chapter titled Exercising Agency in the Midst of Racial Battle Fatigue: A Case for Intragroup Diversity, they examine court decisions regarding diversity in higher education and point out several mitigating factors that create racial battle fatigue. As a solution, they state the case for advocating and obtaining support for diversity and inclusion efforts in colleges and schools across the nation. The chapter is co-authored by Gregory J. Vincent, vice president of diversity and community engagement; Sherri Sanders, DDCE associate vice president; and Stella Smith, DDCE postdoctoral fellow.

Book on Medieval Syrian Shrines Takes Grand Prize at Hamilton Book Awards

images Stephennie Mulder, associate professor of Islamic art and architecture at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named the $10,000 grand prize winner of the 2015 University Co-op Robert W. Hamilton Book Awards for her work The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is, and the Architecture of Coexistence.

The Hamilton Awards are among the highest honors of literary achievement given to UT Austin authors.

The awards are named for Professor Robert W. Hamilton, the Minerva House Drysdale Regents Chair-Emeritus in Law, who served as chair of the board of the University Co-op from 1989 to 2001.

The Shrines of the ‘Alids in Medieval Syria: Sunnis, Shi’is, and the Architecture of Coexistence (published by Edinburgh University Press) is the first illustrated, architectural history of these shrines, increasingly endangered by the conflict in Syria. Mulder, a specialist in Islamic architectural history and archaeology, spent years in the field in Syria and throughout the Middle East. She works on the conservation of antiquities and cultural heritage sites endangered by war and illegal trafficking, and is a founder of UT Antiquities Action, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the loss of cultural heritage.

Three other UT Austin professors received $3,000 runner-up prizes:

  • Donna Kornhaber, Department of English, for Charlie Chaplin, Director(Northwestern University Press)
  • Fernando L. Lara, Department of Architecture, for Modern Architecture in Latin America: Art, Technology, and Utopia, co-authored with Luis E. Carranza (University of Texas Press)
  • Kelly McDonough, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, for The Learned Ones: Nahua Intellectuals in Postconquest Mexico (University of Arizona Press)

The University Co-operative Society also announced winners for its research awards Monday. Go to this website for more information.

 

Former UT Austin English Professor Releases New Historical Novel

authorpicbookFormer UT Austin creative writing professor Elizabeth Harris recently released Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman (October, Gival Press), a novel that follows the causes and consequences of an unusual crime.

Two stock farmers in Central Texas (circa 1936) are accused of castrating a neighbor under circumstances deriving from standard gender and social relations. The daughter of prominent landowners, regarded as the cause of this crime, is outcast from home and family, rescued by clergy in the role of plot angels, and becomes a paid laborer in other people’s homes, where she undergoes a muted, nearly 20-year recovery from trauma. 

As to what makes a historical novel, Harris replies, “Some definitions say a detailed, realistic, historical setting, which I tried to give Mayhem, and a fidelity to the culture and society of the period, which, as imagined in Mayhem, shape the action.”

The setting of Harris’ novel is a synthesis of rural places in Central Texas, 1917-1954. 

“Other definitions want the historical novel to be about a historical event or person, like Gerald Duff’s new novel about Custer’s Last Stand, or Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain, about a wounded Confederate deserter making his way homeward in the North Carolina mountains,” says Harris.

But in Mayhem the characters and events are fictional, although some details of the crime and its consequences are based on one that occurred in Texas at a different period. 

Harris attributes her interest in historical settings to her Texas family’s closeness to the past.

“My father’s father—the only one of my grandparents not born in Texas—was born in 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War. He had an Alabama childhood memory from the end of the War.”

“Alternating between delighting you with pastoral descriptions of the Hill Country, lulling you with sepia-tones portraits of the good ol’ days, and smacking you in the face with the gender, race, and class conventions. . .of the period, Mayhem is a surprising blend of plot-driven crime story, character study, and social critique.. . .When you decide you know where this is going, Evelyn hijacks the plot. It’s not what you think it is—it’s better.” – Michelle Newsby, Lone Star Literary Life

Visit the author’s website to learn more and view the book trailer. http://elizabethharriswriter.com/ .

 

Faculty Authors Showcase their Works at the 20th Annual Texas Book Festival

image of logoBookworms, foodies, artists and scholars will partake in an annual rite of fall here in Austin: The Texas Book Festival! This Texas-size literary event will take place in and around the State Capitol and nearby venues on Oct. 17-18.

A record 300 authors are coming to the festival—the largest number in its 20-year history.  Here are just few highlights featuring education outreach events and top faculty authors from colleges and schools throughout the Forty Acres. Dates, times and locations will be available on the Texas Book Festival website later this month. Use this hashtag to join the conversation: #TXBookFest

Special Events

image of book and authorThe Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken Wendell Pierce, Actor and Tony Award-Winning Producer
Moderated by Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement

On the morning of August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina barreled into New Orleans, devastating many of the city’s neighborhoods, including Pontchartrain Park, the home of Wendell Pierce’s family and the first African American middle-class subdivision in New Orleans. Pierce and his family were some of the lucky ones: They survived and were able to ride out the storm at a relative’s house 70 miles away. Read more here…

About the author: Wendell Pierce was born in New Orleans and is an actor and Tony Award-winning producer. He starred in all five seasons of the acclaimed HBO drama The Wire and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the role. He also starred in the HBO series Treme and has appeared in many feature films including Selma, Ray, Waiting to Exhale, and Hackers. Since Hurricane Katrina, Pierce has been helping to rebuild the flood-ravaged Pontchartrain Park neighborhood in New Orleans.

15th Annual Youth Fiction Writing Contest
Co-hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

writingcontestThe Fiction Writing Contest encourages and rewards creative writing in Texas schools. Junior and high school Texas students are invited to submit a piece of original fiction, no more than 2,000 words in length. The submissions are judged by Texas Book Festival authors, local educators, and leaders in the publishing industry. Read more here…

Place and Race, a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Leonard Moore, senior associate vice president, DDCE 

image of authorsAuthors Wendy S. Walters and Jason Sokol discuss the dynamic and complicated course of civil rights over the past several decades in America. Racism emerges in unexpected locations, and the ways in which people resist, cope, and consent are not predictable.

Negroland
Margo Jefferson
Moderated by Shirley Thompson, Departments of Anthropology and Africa and African Diaspora

image of author Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and memoirist Margo Jefferson recounts growing up in a small region of African-American upper class families in Chicago during the civil rights movement and the genesis of feminism. With this point of view, Jefferson discusses race, identity, and American culture, through her own lens. Read more here…

 

Author Appearances

image of book and author Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City
Javier Auyero, Department of Sociology

Austin, Texas, is renowned as a high-tech, fast-growing city for the young and creative, a cool place to live, and the scene of internationally famous events such as SXSW and Formula 1. But as in many American cities, poverty and penury are booming along with wealth and material abundance in contemporary Austin. Rich and poor residents lead increasingly separate lives as growing socioeconomic inequality underscores residential, class, racial, and ethnic segregation. Read more here…

Reagan: The Life
H.W. Brands, Professor, Department of History

Image of author and bookRonald Reagan today is a conservative icon, celebrated for transforming the American domestic agenda and playing a crucial part in ending communism in the Soviet Union. In his masterful new biography, H. W. Brands argues that Reagan, along with FDR, was the most consequential president of the twentieth century. Reagan took office at a time when the public sector, after a half century of New Deal liberalism, was widely perceived as bloated and inefficient, an impediment to personal liberty. Reagan sought to restore democracy by bolstering capitalism. In Brands’s telling, how Reagan, who voted four times for FDR, engineered a conservative transformation of American politics is both a riveting personal journey and the story of America in the modern era. Read more here…

Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library Mark K. Updegrove, Director, LBJ Presidential Library and Museum

image of book and authorPresident Lyndon B. Johnson played a monumental role in America’s quest for civil rights. The legacy of those efforts reached a crescendo from April 8 through 10, 2014, as the LBJ Presidential Library hosted a historic Civil Rights Summit to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. A host of luminaries—including President Barack Obama, the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office, and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter—came to the LBJ Library to recognize the progress made in the country’s long, often troubled, journey toward civil rights. Read more here…

 

Save the Date! “Invisible Austin” Launch Party and Panel Discussion is this Friday at BookPeople

image of bookYou’re invited to a book launch of Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City this Friday, Sept. 4, 7 p.m. at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

In Invisible in Austin, the award-winning UT Austin sociologist Javier Auyero and a team of graduate students explore the lives of those working at the bottom of the social order: house cleaners, office-machine repairers, cab drivers, restaurant cooks and dishwashers, exotic dancers, musicians, and roofers, among others.

Recounting their subjects’ life stories with empathy and sociological insight, the authors show us how these lives are driven by a complex mix of individual and social forces. These poignant stories compel us to see how poor people who provide indispensable services for all city residents struggle daily with substandard housing, inadequate public services and schools, and environmental risks. Timely and essential reading, Invisible in Austin makes visible the growing gap between rich and poor that is reconfiguring the cityscape of one of America’s most dynamic places, as low-wage workers are forced to the social and symbolic margins.

Want to know more about the research that went into this sociological portrait of Austin’s rapidly gentrifying landscape? Check out this Q&A with three sociology graduate students who co-authored the book. For more about the book, visit this website: www.othersidesofaustin.com