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Reading List August 24, 2019

1619 Syllabus

Because when we remember better, we do better.
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Four hundred years ago this month, around twenty enslaved Africans were brought to Hampton, Virginia, on the English ship ‘White Lion’ in what is widely regarded as the beginning of slavery in the United States.

The New York Times Magazine has marked the occasion with their ambitious 1619 Project, which challenges the United States to both remember and understand its own history better. Inspired by that same spirit, today’s reading list offers a range of supplemental essays from our archive that shed much needed light on America’s origin stories.

From the history of a popular folk song, to the history of the Fourteenth Amendment, to the history of modern business management, the pieces below investigate how slavery’s cultural, political, and economic legacies still impact us today.

—Rosie Gillies


The Fragile Patriotism of the American Conservative
by David Walsh

The New York Times’s new 1619 Project argues fiercely for a new understanding of what it means to believe in America—and it is cracking the very foundations of conservatism

• • •

How Slavery Inspired Modern Business Management
by Caitlin C. Rosenthal

The parallels between present-day business management practices and slavery have been persistently neglected in mainstream discussions about the history of U.S. enterprise

• • •

The Descent of Democracy
by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

Our desire to forget or erase our racial past is a critical ingredient in democracy’s descent. To put it in terms economists can appreciate: historical amnesia ensures our reversion to the mean.”

• • •

The Racist Dawn of Capitalism
by Peter James Hudson

What happens when mainstream books on slavery ignore the contributions of black radical scholars? How does scholarship suffer when it disowns the radical origins—and uses of its inquiries?

• • •

Ground Down to Molasses
by Dave Byrne

Brazoria County, Texas, continued to import enslaved people even after the United States banned the practice. This is the story behind a song that originated there, “Ain’t No More Cane,” which was later made famous by the New York folk revival scene

• • •

To Remake the World: Slavery, Racial Capitalism, and Justice
a forum with Walter Johnson

Much of the scholarship on slavery has unwittingly relied upon a pat liberal notion of human rights as its moral paradigm. But what if we use the history of slavery to rethink our notion of “justice” today?

• • •

The Origins of Birthright Citizenship
by Robert L. Tsai

How the Fourteenth Amendment was shaped by freed blacks’ insistence that everyone born in the United States deserved full citizenship

• • •

Race in Black and White
by Alexis L. Boylan

“Both sides of the debate over slavery—and then of the war fought in its name—were interested in the power photography seemed to possess to document objective truth.

• • •

How Wall Street Colonized the Caribbean
by Peter James Hudson

The expansion of banks such as Citigroup into Cuba, Haiti, and beyond reveal a story of capitalism built on blood, labor, and racial lines.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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