Another book I read in the class World History in the Year 1900 was A World History of Rubber: Empire, Industry, and the Everyday by Stephan L. Harp. It discussed the time period around the 1880s to the 1940s. I found this book interesting because it connected the struggles of people of color during the production of rubber in different parts of the world, from Sumatra, Indonesia to Akron, Ohio, through the study of a commodity. For example, it explains how plantation owners in Southeast Asia would call the workers of color “boy,” similar to what African Americans were called in America, thus emphasizing a power dynamic based on age and also on lack of manliness. These hierarchies were emphasized by the belief in scientific racism, that some races were naturally better than others.
When discussing Akron, also known as the Rubber City, the book discusses many of the things we discussed in class, like how African Americans migrated to the North for work, and how these power dynamics were complicated because in the North there were other immigrants that also got a lower status when seeking jobs. African Americans faced discrimination, as they were prevented from building tires until after World War II, and instead often worked in the mill room which had toxic fumes. They were also the first to be laid off and last to be rehired, and their lower pay reflected their status. The cafeterias were segregated and the Goodyear company featured minstrel shows. I admit these last points shock me a little, I think because usually when learning history it is emphasized to just blame the south for racism, which is highly problematic. The other reason it shocks me is because I know several of my (white) ancestors lived in Akron at the time, so it becomes a bit more real and personal than when reading about other places.
Harp’s organization of the book, putting it in sections like “race” or “gender” and then talking about various places in the world, reminds me of W.E.B Du Bois’ ideas on race, as he often discussed it from a global perspective. I would recommend this book if someone was interested in seeing the world through a commodity and have it focus on the global interactions. However, I think the book could use more substance and examples. The book does mention Wooster once, which was fun to read.
During the civil rights movement, women played major roles that I think are often overlooked by the accomplishments of men. Women like Anne Moody and Miriam Anderson contributed greatly to the movement. They led organizations, they were lawyers, and they were on the front lines dying for the fight for black rights. Here are a few women we don’t hear about too often when learning about the civil rights movement:
Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons-a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She fought for gaining resources and aid in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.
Doris Adelaide Derby- another SNCC activist, she encouraged local women to join the cause as well as helping with voting drives and rallies. Her efforts helped members of
Ruby Nell Sales- She worked closely with efforts to stop bus segregation and even overcame psychological trauma from the movement. She encouraged people look deeper than what Rosa Parks did and to keep pushing for effective techniques of civil disobedience.
Around the time Black Panther came out in China, I saw an article ( https://qz.com/1226449/a-torture-for-the-eyes-chinese-moviegoers-think-black-panther-is-too-black/ ) that discussed the response of Chinese moviegoers to the movie. As I’m sure most of you know, the movie stars a mostly black cast with only a few caucasian characters. The movie is about a superhero but has many underlying themes of black power and nationalism. In this article, the response to Black Panther in China that was discussed was overwhelmingly prejudiced. Chinese people interviewed described the movie as aesthetically unpleasing because it was to dark, in reference to the main casts skin color. Though this can be blamed on ignorance since China has a very lacking population when it comes to diversity, but I remember thinking that such an ignorant response would be hard to come by in my daily life. Yet, within an hour, I was scrolling through the comments of another post on Black Panther and I came across a thread of commentators arguing the fact that the film should have been named differently because people believed it to be about the Black Panther movement, and so they felt turned off by that. I have seen this reaction to the Black Panther Party before due to stereotypes and myths perpetrated by the government back in the 60’s to villainize the Black Panther Party. What struck me as so unbelievable was that people didn’t think to look at a synopsis, trailer, or even a poster to see that the movie wasn’t a fictional account of the Black Panther Party. Though there is mention of the party in the movie, it is not the basis of the film, and the fact that people were so quick to ignorantly villainize a movie because of the mere use of a term such as Black Panther shocked and annoyed me. But it helped me remember that not everybody has the same education as I do and that unfortunately I shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of behavior on a Facebook comment section.
While doing the final exam essay, I focused on Anne Moody’s “A Coming of Age in Mississippi” and how the tactics for black rights of SNCC differed from that of Martin Luther King’s. While researching I came across an interesting video that is a live action trailer based on the reading of the book. The trailer does a good job relaying the same information and getting major plot points of the story right.
In my final essay I chose to talk about the article we read earlier in the semester, Where Were the Women in the March on Washington? by Jennifer Scanlon and I realized that there wasn’t a prominent disconnect between men and women in just the Civil Rights Movement, but also the Black Power Movement. Women of color have always been dealt the worse hand in the US because they are a part of two different groups that are both discriminated against heavily in the US, but simultaneously. In the black power movement, I was specifically thinking of the author Zora Neale Hurston, who most notably wrote the book Their Eyes Were Watching God. This book handled the fictional story of a black woman and her life growing up in the south. The character faced both ends of discrimination, gender and racial, which is a similar testament to the author, Hurston. Initially, Hurston worked closely with famous Harlem authors such as Langston Hughes, but when she began to write more radically and show her opinions, they were rejected by society, both white and black, and she was outcasted by Hughes and the other Harlem writers she had become a colleague with. I find it very ironic how both the black power and civil rights movements were for freedom and equality, and yet within the black community, there was so much rampant sexism. I think this shows how even though there has been a great amount of progress in our country in terms of human equality, there is always more work to be done.