A Charlottesville Primer: Exploring White Supremacy

Following recent events in Charlottesville, as well as in our library itself last spring, the Vassar College Libraries staff, not surprisingly, sought understanding through our collection.  

The result is the Charlottesville Primer, a list of books and movies dealing with white supremacy, the history of whiteness, and their impact on our current society. Library staff selected these particular books and movies because they were thought provoking for us as we meandered through our own library looking for books on this topic, but there are many, many more sources that can be added to the list; the titles below serve only as a “seed list” that we hope will foster thought and conversation. All the books and movies in the Charlottesville Primer are located in the Browsing Collection in the lobby of the Thompson Library.

This is not the first time we have turned to literature and art to explore the topic of race after disturbing national events. Just two years ago we participated in the Charleston Syllabus following the murder of nine parishioners gathered for a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We have linked to that syllabus HERE and you can read Assistant Director of the Library for Collection Development and Research Services Deb Bucher’s thoughts at the time HERE.  Both the list and Deb’s essay remain relevant in the aftermath of Charlottesville.

We invite you to join this ongoing conversation on Tuesday, September 26th at 4:30pm in the Library lobby as part of our adLib series.

What is adLIB?
An event series that pairs the interests of librarians and students in programs that inspire curiosity and build relationships, adLIB intends to engage the spirit of spontaneity and curiosity to encourage Vassar students to cultivate genuine interest in the Libraries’ extensive collections, supportive services, and informative people.

adLIB programs are casual, informal opportunities for students to discover and explore possibilities in our libraries that can be applied in the academic world and beyond.

CHARLOTTESVILLE PRIMER (in chronological order)

Wells-Barnett, Ida B. 1892-1900. On Lynchings. 2002 ed. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.
HV6457 .W393 2002
A collection of three smaller works: Southern Horrors (1892); A Red Record (1895); Mob Rule in New Orleans (1900).

DuBois, W.E.B. 1920. Darkwater: Voices From Within the Veil. New York: Oxford, 2007.
E185.61 .D83 2007
This collection contains the essay “The Souls of White Folks,” which is an examination of the “assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan…” (p.).

Malcolm, X. 1971. The End of White World Supremacy: Four Speeches by Malcolm X. Edited by Benjamin Goodman. New York: Merlin House.
E185.61 .L578
Representative speeches of Malcolm X’s thinking between 1962-1963, laying out the hypocrisy of White, liberal, America and arguing for strong, Black leadership.

Brown, Kathleen M. 1996. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race, and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
F229 .B8783 1996
This book examines the role gender–especially the regulation of white women’s sexuality–played in the creation of racial categories in colonial America. The author focuses on the Virginia colony and uses court records, promotional tracts, and travelers’ accounts.

Lazarre, Jane. 1996. Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016 (Twentieth anniversary edition).
HQ755.85 L39 2016
A memoir that recounts the author’s confrontation with her own racism and explores “the possibility of rejecting willful innocence and persistent ignorance of history, of being oblivious…to the history and legacy of American slavery….” (p.xvii).

Jacobson, Matthew Frye. 1999. Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
E184 .395 J33 1999
Using novels, films, journalistic accounts, court records, legal codes, congressional debates, and many other primary sources, Jacobson writes about race as American history. Like Brown, above, he starts in the colonial period, but moves from there into the twentieth century. He maintains two points: “race is absolutely central to the history of European immigration and settlement” (p.8), and “race resides not in nature but in politics and culture” (p.9). The history of “whiteness and its fluidity is very much a history of power and disposition” (p.9).

Thandeka. 1999. Learning to Be White: Money, Race, and God in America. New York: Continuum.
E184 .E95 T47 1999
Thandeka lays out her thought-provoking thesis in three bullet points in the Preface (p.vii):
No one in born white in America.
The first racial victim of the white community is its own child.
Racist acts are sometimes not motivated by white racist sentiment but by feelings of personal shame.

Smith, Chip. 2007. The Cost of Privilege: Taking on the System of White Supremacy and Racism. Fayetteville, NC: Camino Press.
E184 .A1 S645 2007
The author argue that the “system of racial preferences [in the United States] is the main barrier to forming a broad movement that can fundamentally transform U.S. society.” The last section of the book is focused on “Taking on the System” and includes ten ways people can challenge white supremacy during an ordinary day (ch. 24).

Daniels, Jessie. 2009. Cyber-Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
E184 .A1 D244 2009
White supremacist groups were early adopters of the Internet to get their message across, so it’s important to understand their tactics and methods. The author uses scholarship to understand white supremacy online and activism to combat it.

Leonardo, Zeus. 2009. Race, Whiteness, and Education. New York: Routledge.
LC212.2 .L46 2009
Following Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Leonardo creates a “selective list of acts, laws, and decisions, if only to capture a reliable portrait of white supremacy” (p.85-89) in his discussion of how children learn about whiteness in both their formal and informal education.

Bush, Melanie E.L. 2011. 2nd ed. Everyday Forms of Whiteness: Understanding Race in a “Post-Racial” World. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
E184 .A1 B917 2011
Using extensive interviews conducted at Brooklyn College in the late 90s, Bush examines the assumptions of white students and determines that they are uncritical about their racial identity and accept it in an unexamined way, and are largely blind to the racial inequalities around them.

Lightweis-Goff, Jennie. 2011. Blood at the Root: Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
HV6457 .L54 2011
Writing as a Northerner, this book reminded me that lynching was not limited to the South. The description of the author’s 2008 experience in Port Jervis, NY is hair-raising, and equally upsetting is the reminder that no evidence of a lynching there in 1892 could be found.

Berger, Martin A. 2013. Freedom Now! Forgotten Photographs of the Civil Rights Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Art E185.61 .B464 2013
This collection of photographs aims to problematize the canon of Civil Rights photos that we often see in circulation. Traditionally, the photos depict African American suffering and White activism. These photos suggest that there’s another side to the story, and that when we “go to the source” we should make sure we look at as many of the sources as possible.

hooks, bell. 2013. Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge.
E194 .A1 H654 2013
Although not a self-help book by any means, bell hooks provides helpful strategies for ways to combat white supremacist thinking (which she prefers over the term “racism”). Primarily, be self-conscious about the types and amount of media you consume!

Simien, Justin. 2014. Dear White People: a Guide to Inter-Racial Harmony in “Post-Racial” America. New York: Atria.
PN6231 .W444 S56 2014
Written by the writer of the movie of the same name, the graphic satire is a guide to avoiding microaggressions.

Sullivan, Shannon. 2014. Good White People: the Problem with Middle-Class White Anti-Racism. Albany: SUNY Press.
E184 .A1 S95 2014
If you’re white like I am, you have most likely asked the question, what can I do to promote racial justice and/or eliminate racism or white privilege? It’s a good question with some really difficult answers. The author focuses on liberal white racism and its intersectionality with class bias. It’s a hard, but important, examination of the racism of white middle class anti-racism.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau.
Kindle (ask at Circulation Desk)
About race and how to live with it as an African American man. As Toni Morrison described it, “This is required reading.”

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. 2016. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. New York: The New Press.
JC573.2 .U6 H624 2016
A sociologist listens to the stories of poor Whites in southern areas of the country. Of special interest is the appendices that outline her research methodologies. In these days of “fake news,” Appendix C is of particular interest, in which she includes common understandings (such as “The more environmental regulations you have, the fewer jobs”) and the research she did to check that “fact.”

Kendi, Ibram X. 2016. Stamped From the Beginning: the Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. New York: Nation Books.
E185.61 .K358 2016
In contrast to the “popular folktale of racism: that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas” (p.9), Kendri offers a counter-history: that “racial discrimination led to racist ideas which led to ignorance and hate” (p.9). He examines the thinking of five important figures: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois, and Angela Davis.

Films
Dear White People (2014, Justin Simien, director)
A (not so) fictional account of the experiences of Black students at an exclusive predominantly white institution of higher learning.

Get Out (2017, Jordan Peele, director)
An African American man meets his White girlfriend’s family.

Other Reading Lists:

New York Public Library
Charlottesville in Context: a Reading List
https://www.nypl.org/blog/2017/08/18/charlottesville-in-context

UVA Graduate Student Coalition
Charlottesville Syllabus – Zine #1 for August 12, 2017
https://gradcoalition.com/wp/2017/08/14/charlottesville-syllabus-zine-1-for-august-12-2017/

JSTOR Daily
Charlottesville Syllabus: Readings on the History of Hate in America
https://daily.jstor.org/charlottesville-syllabi-history-hate-america/

Preservation Week at VCL, April 23 to 29

During the American Library Association’s Preservation Week (April 23-April 29) the Vassar College Libraries will join libraries all over the country to highlight the ongoing need for preservation in our libraries and showcase items that demonstrate some of the challenges and solutions we face each day while caring for our collection of over one million books, documents and media.

In addition to our red table tent cards and bookmarks spread throughout the libraries that communicate some best practices for preservation, we will have two cases leading into the Cornaro Room that display examples of preservation problems as well as the remedies we employ to make them usable again by the Vassar community.

The Vassar College Libraries are committed to the preservation of our collection and have a long established Preservation Department that provides conservation and preservation services to all of our libraries in order to maintain the health and accessibility of our extensive collection.  We cannot achieve this goal without the help of the entire Vassar community and invite you to learn more about what you can do to help ensure the longevity of our collection for future Vassar scholars.

ABOUT THE VCL PRESERVATION DEPARTMENT

The Preservation department offers a broad range of preservation options for both newly acquired and existing materials to ensure the most effective treatments for standard collections formats as well as sound, creative solutions for the non-standard formats.  Keeping in mind the key treatment goals of usability, readability, permanence (through use of chemically stable conservation materials), sturdiness, and adherence to national standards, the Department provides state of the art conservation treatments on worn, damaged, or deteriorating materials, thereby enhancing user access to the Libraries’ collections.

More information about our criteria and methods may be found under the PRESERVATION TAB at the Vassar College Libraries website.

ABOUT PRESERVATION WEEK

Preservation Week was created in 2010 because some 630 million items in collecting institutions require immediate attention and care and eighty percent of these institutions have no paid staff assigned to collections care and 22 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan. As natural disasters of recent years have taught us, these resources are in jeopardy should a disaster strike. Personal, family, and community collections are equally at risk.

Preservation Week is an initiative of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS), a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

WHY IS PRESERVATION IMPORTANT?

  • In 2005 the first comprehensive national survey of the condition and preservation needs of the nation’s collections reported that U.S. institutions hold more than 4.8 billion items. Libraries alone hold 3 billion items (63 percent of the whole). A treasure trove of uncounted additional items is held by individuals, families, and communities.
  • Some 630 million items in collecting institutions require immediate attention and care. Eighty percent of these institutions have no paid staff assigned responsibility for collections care; 22 percent have no collections care personnel at all. Some 2.6 billion items are not protected by an emergency plan. As natural disasters of recent years have taught us, these resources are in jeopardy should a disaster strike. Personal, family, and community collections are equally at risk.

KEY ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS THAT PLACE COLLECTIONS AT RISK:

  • Light: Ultraviolet rays from natural and artificial sources can cause fading and disintegration.
  • Pollutants: Dust is abrasive and can accelerate harmful chemical reactions.
  • Heat: High temperatures can accelerate deterioration.
  • Moisture: High humidity promotes mold growth, corrosion, and degradation, while excessive dryness can cause drying and cracking. Fluctuations between extremes can cause warping, buckling, and flaking.

PRESERVATION FAST FACTS

  • More than 4.8 billion artifacts are held in public trust by more than 30,000 archives, historical societies, libraries, museums, scientific research collections, and archaeological repositories in the United States. 1.3 billion of these items are at risk of being lost.
  • Roughly 70% of institutions need additional conservation or preservation training for their staff and volunteers.
  • A majority of collecting institutions, more than 80%, do not have a disaster plan in place that can be executed by trained staff.
  • Nearly a quarter of all the 21 million paintings, sculptures, and works of decorative art in U.S. collections need conservation treatment or improved care and conditions.
  • More than 50% of collecting institutions have had their collections damaged by light.
  • More than 65% of collecting institutions report damage to their collections due to improper storage.

*Source: “A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections,” Library of Congress. For additional information regarding Preservation Week, please visit www.ala.org/preservationweek.

National African-American Read-In at VCL, February 20, 2017

Join us for the 2017 National African-American Read-In!  

Celebrate Black History Month at Vassar College Libraries as we host an African-American Read-In. Come read or come listen to a variety of different works authored by African Americans.  

  • Date: Monday, February 20, 2017
  • Time: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. 
  • Location: Class of ’51 Reading Room, Thompson (Main) Library.  

A reception will follow the readings at 4 p.m.

Frequently asked questions:

Follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #AfricanAmericanReadIn

For more information about the National African-American Read-In, visit http://www.ncte.org/aari. 

We look forward to seeing you there!