Showing posts with label Edward Blum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Edward Blum. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Twain, Du Bois, and My Family Each Lost

By Edward Blum
R3 Contributor




Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. At 7 p.m., thousands of individuals will gently sway lit candles to remember those lost girls and boys.

The day came from one of Ronald Reagan’s last acts as president. The proclamation for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month in 1988 was one of those compassion-meets-control conservative items. While drawing attention to the pains of those who have lost children, it also made sure to emphasize selected abortion as much as unplanned death: “We can and must do a much better job of encouraging adoption as an alternative to abortion,” Reagan’s team wrote. We must do a better job “of helping the single parents who wish to raise their babies; and of offering friendship and temporal support to the courageous women and girls who give their children the gifts of life and loving adoptive parents.”

Inspired by the work of my colleague Harold Bush, I want to recognize some of those American families who have lost little ones, to thank those daughters and sons for their lives, and to acknowledge what they have shown many of us.

We remember Langdon Clemens, Olivia Clemens, and Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Langdon, your dad taught many of us about the wonder of childhood. Your photographed serious face from the early 1870s leaves me wondering if you inspired your dad’s trenchant criticisms of American imperialism. “The War Prayer” may be the best prayer written in American history. Penned decades later during the Spanish-American War (when you would have been of military age), a stranger ascended a church pulpit and asked the God of war to “help us to turn” our enemies “out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated lands.” These sarcastic words should haunt us still. We remember you.

We remember Burghardt Du Bois, Nina Du Bois, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Burghardt, although your father had received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and had taught at the University of Pennsylvania, no white doctor in Atlanta would tend to you in the spring of 1899. After your death, your father immortalized you in The Souls of Black Folk. “Of the Passing of the First-Born” should be read by anyone who wants to understand race in the nation then and now. As a society, we did not value little black boys and girls in the 1890s. Today, it seems we have a similar problem recognizing the humanity of black teenagers. About two decades after your death, Burghardt, your father started writing essays about black Christ figures born in the United States. They preached the good news of love and forgiveness. They were crucified by sin-sick Americans. I often think that he was thinking of you. I know that I do. We remember you.

We remember Mary Garner, Margaret Garner, and Robert Garner. Mary, your mother hated slavery. She knew what often happened to boys and girls who lived within its horrors, especially to girls. When she took your life in the winter of 1856, I believe it may have been an act of love. People kill other people all the time. It’s not always with malice. My family knows this well. We too had to participate actively in ending a life we held so precious. Your story inspired Toni Morrison, one of the greatest writers the world has known. We remember you.

We remember Elijah James Blum and Jennifer Cherry Blum. Elijah, you endured so many surgeries, and sometimes you kept your sweet smile. When you threw fits as your mom poked tubes up your nose, I admired your feisty spirit. You taught me to see the Puritans’ present blindness in new ways, to sense spirituality in the smallest of material objects, and to believe that children shouldn’t have to bear so many burdens. I don’t want to live without you, but I can’t be with you right now. Your little brother loves Winnie the Pooh. We remember you.

We honor all mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, sisters and brothers, friends and acquaintances then and now. Pain tears us apart; it binds us together. Tears burn our cheeks; they soothe our hearts. Those we miss can become our missions. What they taught us, we can share. Perhaps some burdens are not meant to be laid down. By carrying them, I hold onto what matters. I don’t want to ever let go . . . again.


Follow Edward on Twitter @edwardjblum

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jesus Christ in Ferguson

by Edward Blum
R3 Contributor


It seemed like every few months an African American man had been murdered. It was one hundred years ago and Judge Lynch had taken the reigns from Lady Justice. He and the mobs working for him were not blind. They saw black men, women, children, and communities to terrorize. Judge Lynch didn't carry a scale to be balanced. He gave his followers a noose to choke their victims. One hundred years ago in 1914, a reported 51 African Americans were lynched. The year after, 56.

One response then was to ask "where is Jesus Christ." W. E. B. Du Bois, who had recently helped found the NAACP and served as the editor of its monthly magazine,The Crisis, tried to move the United States public to action. The Crisis tried to expose what was really happening throughout the United States -- that African American communities were being systematically terrorized by everyday white Americans, by courts of law, by politicians, and by the police. They tried statistics. They tried muckraking. They tried every form of journalism they could.

W. E. B. Du Bois also tried faith. In response to lynchings, he wrote a series of short stories and poems that wrestled with the problem of racial violence in their midst. "Jesus Christ in Texas" was a short story set in Waco, Texas -- where a lynching had recently taken place. It imagined a scenario where "a stranger" arrived in town. He looked neither white, nor black (he looked Jewish, in fact, but no one seemed to recognize those elements of his appearance). He spoke from the New Testament gospels to love one another, do unto others, and those old panaceas. Jesus met with convicts, one of whom was on the run from the police and Jesus exchanged clothing with him. A white pastor tried to determine who he was, muttering that he felt like he somehow knew this man, long ago. Ultimately, Jesus in Texas was lynched.

In poetry, Du Bois wondered where God was. In "A Litany for Atlanta," he asked if God were asleep. Du Bois trembled: "God Surely Thou, too, are not white, O Lord, a pale, bloodless, heartless thing! / Ah! Christ of all the Pities!" Which would be worse, a dead God or a white one? Du Bois refused to believe either. He called with so many others, "Hear us, good Lord! / In night, O God of a godless land."

Now, one hundred years later, was continue to ask, where is Jesus Christ in Ferguson, Missouri? Is God out there? As our young women and men are murdered, as our politicians seem idle, as those with guns wield bigger ones, where is the spirit of the man who tried to teach us to use right for might?

These are not new questions for American communities. African Americans have been calling for justice in this land of injustice for more than 400 years. At times, as during the Civil War and the Civil Rights movement, it seemed that God was with them. But for the vast majority of the rest of the centuries, the weight of history seems to indicate a silent and distant God. The shame of it all, perhaps, is not that God seems absent, but that those with the power and authority to do justice and to act humbly seem intent on the opposite.

Follow Edward J. Blum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/edwardjblum

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

R3 Contributor to Serve as Visiting Professor

R3 Contributor Edward J. Blum will serve as a visiting professor at Memphis Theological Seminary. His class, "The Contested Colors of Christ in America," examine issues of race and religion throughout American history through how Americans have considered the body and race of Jesus Christ. It begins with the transatlantic encounter of western Europeans, western Africans, and Native Americans and proceeds to the present-day of television, digital media, and global U.S. power. Moreover, the course highlights the power of slavery, land disputes, immigration, social movements, and law in American religious thinking and expression. “The Contested Colors of Christ in America” compels students to consider the social, cultural, and technological factors that have influenced and continue to influence views of Jesus, God, and religion in the lives of Americans past and present.

The class will meet June 3-7 from 9:00am-5:00pm in room C-101 at Memphis Theological Seminary. For more information call 901-458-8232. 

More of Professor Blum:

Edward J. Blum (University of Kentucky, 2003) is a historian of race and religion in the United States. He is the author (with Paul Harvey) of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005). He is also the co-editor (with Paul Harvey) of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), (with Jason R. Young) The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009), and (with W. Scott Poole) Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005)

Blum has been awarded the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities by the Council of Graduate Schools for the best first book by a historian published between 2002 and 2009 (2009), the Peter Seaborg Award for the best book in Civil War Studies (2006), and the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize for the best dissertation in southern history (2004). Twice he has been recognized by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and in 2007 was named by the History News Network a “top young historian.” He has been a fellow with the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and with the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the classroom, Blum engages the past in a variety of ways, whether through music and images or debates and historical simulations. His courses include Antebellum America, the Civil War and Reconstruction, American religious history, and history through biography. He is a co-editor of the teaching blog and with Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde of Major Problems in American History.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Shooting Of Children And 'God's Plan'


R3 Contributor
Children die. Sometimes peacefully at home, as my eight-month-old son did about a year ago. Sometimes when bombs blow up churches, as was the case in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, when four little girls died. And sometimes they are slaughtered, as in several biblical tales and during the shootings in Connecticut. These are horrific moments that leave us wondering, "where is God?"
We are not the first, and sadly, we will not be the last, to wonder about the place of the sacred amid the deaths of innocents. That theodical problem is with us - theologically unsolved and socially unresolved. But history and personal experience have taught me one thing: silence can be powerful.
"God has a plan for this," a woman explained to me as she prattled on just before the memorial service for my son Elijah. She meant the words to be comforting, but I swallowed them as if lumps of clay. They have sat in my stomach ever since, and try as I may I have been unable to vomit them out spiritually. Providential interpretations of everyday life sometimes feel satisfying - like when bad traffic slows me or down or when a friend has a cold. The deaths of children are quite another.
This chatty woman was Elijah's very evangelical grandmother. She meant well; she loved and loves Elijah, but to her, everything was in the hands of a big, all-seeing, all-powerful Father. For me, the thought that God had a plan for my son to be unable to eat, that God intended for my son to fail to breath, or that God was instrumental in my son dying in my arms was disgusting. To me, that God could only be an awful and wicked monster.
And the thought, today, that God perhaps has a plan amid the Connecticut shooting sickens me as well.
Read the rest here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

'Color Of Christ': A Story Of Race And Religion In America


NPR recently interviewed R3 contributor/blogger Edward J. Blum to discuss his (and Paul Harvey's)  latest book, The Color of Christ. See below
What did Jesus look like? The many different depictions of Christ tell a story about race and religion in America. Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey explore that history in their new book,The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America. The book traces how different races and ethnic groups claimed Christ as their own — and how depictions of Jesus have both inspired civil rights crusades, and been used to justify the violence of white supremacists.
The Ku Klux Klan could not rely on Christian doctrine to justify their persecution and violence, so they had to turn to religious icons. "The belief, the value, that Jesus is white provides them an image in place of text," Blum tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "It gets them away from actually having to quote chapter and verse, which they can't really do to present their cause."
If Blum had to paint a realistic portrait of Jesus, he says he wouldn't be white: "I would probably paint him darkly complected, not pure black, more in a kind of light brownish [color]."
Up until the late 1800s, Blum says Americans were comfortable with Jesus' Semitic roots and depicted him with brown eyes. But as waves of Catholic and Jewish immigrants came to the United States, some Americans "became concerned that it was changing the face of America too much, changing it racially, changing it religiously." In the early 20th century, there was an attempt to distinguish Jesus from his Semitic background. Religious writers and artists who were advocating for immigration restrictions began to depict Jesus with blond hair and blue eyes.
Read the rest here

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What all those Jesus jokes tell us


by R3 blogger Edward Blum and Paul Harvey
Did you ever hear the one about Jesus being Mexican? Well, he was bilingual; he was constantly harassed by the government; and his first name was Jesus. Or, perhaps Jesus was Irish? He loved a good story; he never kept a steady job; and his last request was for a drink. Or maybe it’s possible that Jesus was Californian? He never cut his hair; he was always walking around barefoot; and he started a new religion.
You may not have heard these Jesus jokes, but you’ve heard others. They represent a comedic trend that has animated the United States since the 1970s. More and more comedy gimmicks hit on Jesus, his ethnicity and his relationship to politics. Laughing with (and at) the Lord is now fodder for major motion pictures, barroom comedy tours, graphic novels, t-shirts and bumper stickers.
How is it that a figure sacred to so many Americans has become the punch line of so many jokes? And why is it acceptable to poke fun at Jesus when other sacred figures are deemed off limits or there is hell to pay for mocking them? The explanations are as numerous as the laughs.
Immigration shifts from the 1960s changed the ethnic and religious faces of the country so no tradition dominates today. The Christian right made such a moral spectacle of itself that it practically begged to be mocked. The emergence of “spiritual, but not religious” sensibilities left many Americans willing to denounce or laugh about traditional faith. The public rise of agnosticism, atheism, and secularism led to aggressive mockery as a form of persuasion.
Read the rest here

Friday, November 2, 2012

Frequent Blogger: Edward Blum


Edward J. Blum (University of Kentucky, 2003) is a historian of race and religion in the United States. He is the author (with Paul Harvey) of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005). He is also the co-editor (with Paul Harvey) of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), (with Jason R. Young) The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009), and (with W. Scott Poole) Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005). Blum has been awarded the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities by the Council of Graduate Schools for the best first book by a historian published between 2002 and 2009 (2009), the Peter Seaborg Award for the best book in Civil War Studies (2006), and the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize for the best dissertation in southern history (2004). Twice he has been recognized by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and in 2007 was named by the History News Network a “top young historian.” He has been a fellow with the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and with the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the classroom, Blum engages the past in a variety of ways, whether through music and images or debates and historical simulations. His courses include Antebellum America, the Civil War and Reconstruction, American religious history, and history through biography. He is a co-editor of the teaching blog and with Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde of Major Problems in American History.

Edward's Articles:

Was Jesus Lily-White? Author Edward Blum Discusses Race and the Mormon Religion
Racial and Sacred Imagery in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Other Works by Seth Grahame-Smith 
What's at Stake? Race and Evangelical Naming
Faces and Places of Christ: An Introduction
Christ in Alabama (and Tennessee and Georgia)
The Image of Christ
Mitt's Jesus, Barack's Jesus, and Why Christ's Color Matters
Race, Place, and Jesus in American History
Obama and Jeremiah Wright: Why a Pull Ad Does Not Mean a Dead Issue

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition

The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition, by Andre E. Johnson, is a study of the prophetic rhetoric of 19th century African Methodist Episcopal Church bishop Henry McNeal Turner. By locating Turner within the African American prophetic tradition, Johnson examines how Bishop Turner adopted a prophetic persona. As one of America’s earliest black activists and social reformers, Bishop Turner made an indelible mark in American history and left behind an enduring social influence through his speeches, writings, and prophetic addresses. This text offers a definition of prophetic rhetoric and examines the existing genres of prophetic discourse, suggesting that there are other types of prophetic rhetorics, especially within the African American prophetic tradition. In examining these modes of discourses from 1866-1895, this study further examines how Turner’s rhetoric shifted over time. It examines how Turner found a voice to article not only his views and positions, but also in the prophetic tradition, the views of people he claimed to represent. The Forgotten Prophet is a significant contribution to the study of Bishop Turner and the African American prophetic tradition.

Reviews for The Forgotten Prophet: Andre Johnson’s study of the speeches of Henry McNeal Turner, from his optimistic Emancipation Day Address in 1866, to sober reflections on the fiftieth anniversary of the proclamation in 1913, is an important step in recovering the story of African-Americans in the South during Reconstruction. Framing Turner’s powerful words as examples of prophetic rhetoric, Johnson shows how even Turner’s most pessimistic comments spoke to a wide audience eager for freedom yet demoralized by prejudice, discrimination, and violence. Although Turner’s answer to the nation’s racism—emigration—did not become a major movement in his lifetime, Johnson’s study of Turner’s prophetic voice enlarges our understanding of this neglected, but important figure in American history.-Sandra J. Sarkela, University of Memphis 

Professor Johnson not only offers a new perspective on Reverend Turner by focusing on the rhetorical dimensions of words, but also suggests new and more precise ways for scholars to study the “prophetic” in the United States. Professor Johnson should be congratulated for offering the first and most nuance study of African American prophetic rhetoric of any black leader.-Edward J. Blum, Co-Author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America 

The critical lens that Dr. Johnson employs—of seeing Turner’s work as an evolution through prophetic stages, not only helps the reader understand Turner’s discourse but significantly enhances our understanding the different prophetic voices available to rhetors-Richard Leeman, author of The Teleological Discourse of Barack Obama

Purchase your copy here

Sunday, July 22, 2012

R3 Contributor: Edward Blum

Edward J. Blum (University of Kentucky, 2003) is a historian of race and religion in the United States. He is the author (with Paul Harvey) of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (2012), W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet (2007), and Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898 (2005). He is also the co-editor (with Paul Harvey) of The Columbia Guide to Religion in American History (2012), (with Jason R. Young) The Souls of W. E. B. Du Bois: New Essays and Reflections (2009), and (with W. Scott Poole) Vale of Tears: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction (2005). Blum has been awarded the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities by the Council of Graduate Schools for the best first book by a historian published between 2002 and 2009 (2009), the Peter Seaborg Award for the best book in Civil War Studies (2006), and the C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize for the best dissertation in southern history (2004). Twice he has been recognized by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and in 2007 was named by the History News Network a “top young historian.” He has been a fellow with the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University and with the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the classroom, Blum engages the past in a variety of ways, whether through music and images or debates and historical simulations. His courses include Antebellum America, the Civil War and Reconstruction, American religious history, and history through biography. He is a co-editor of the teaching blog and with Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman and Jon Gjerde of Major Problems in American History.

Ed's Contributions:

1.Racial Violence and Presidential Rhetoric 
2. The Shooting Of Children And 'God's Plan' 
3. What all those Jesus jokes tell us 
4. Christ in Alabama (and Tennessee and Georgia) 
5. Racial and Sacred Imagery in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Other Works by Seth Grahame-Smith 
6. What's at Stake? Race and Evangelical Naming 
7. Obama and Jeremiah Wright: Why a Pulled Ad Does Not Mean a Dead Issue 
8. Faces and Places of Christ: An Introduction