Two cool books on race relations from a University of Chicago Graduate

I get about a dozen magazines a week, and many of them are collecting on a pile in the corner of my bedroom, and most of them I skim quickly. But the one magazine that always has interesting content and that I read thoroughly is the University of Chicago Magazine. (NOTE – I am a U of Chicago Booth School of Business MBA ’79 – read my 2-part blog about recently returning for my 40-year class reunion.)

The Spring 2019 edition had several interesting articles that coincided well with my diversity and inclusion consulting business. These included:
• Toward a more diverse and inclusive Uchicago (page 9)
• Lieber Erich about a play inspired by the author finding a box of old letters written by his grandmother for Nazi Germany before losing her life in the Holocaust. (page 48)
• One Person’s Power about a 1968 African-American graduate, Sybil Jordan Hampton, who attended Little Rock Central High School two years after the famed “Little Rock 9” enrolled following the Supreme Court Ruling Brown vs. Board of Education (page 52)
• And the article this blog is about, “History Matters” featuring Claire Hartfield’s (JD ’82) two books for young readers (but excellent for old readers too!) (page 14)

Ms. Hartfield’s “day job” was overseeing the development of school desegregation plans for the cities of Chicago and Rockfield, Illinois, and in her own words was inspired to write books to tell “some stories that were not being told, important stories.”

The first book is a children’s book entitled “Me and Uncle Romie.” It’s the story of young African – American boy who is sent by train up from rural North Carolina to Harlem in New York City (for his first time) to stay with his Uncle Romie and Aunt Nanette while his mother was toward the end of a difficult pregnancy. In addition to experiencing the fascinating sights and sounds of New York City, he started to learn more about his mysterious Uncle Romie who seemed to spend hours holed up in his art studio.

Jammin’ at the Savoy by Romare Bearden

Though initially a little frightened and unsure about his uncle, the boy grows to appreciate his uncle and his art, and eventually decides to try his own hand at being creative. NOTE: Uncle Romie is an actual person, Romare Bearden – link (1911 – 1988) who became a well-known collage-style painter residing in Harlem.

The book has an appendix at the back with instructions on how to create collage art.

The second book is geared toward teen and young adult readers, though perfect for all adults, “A Few Red Drops – The Chicago Race Riot of 1919.” On July 27, 1919, a white man threw a rock at hit and killed a teenage black boy at the beach, which exploded into several days of intense rioting that engulfed Chicago’s South Side. What is excellent about this book, is that after shortly recounting the murder, Ms. Hartfield goes through all the dynamics from the past several decades that created the environment that provided the impetus for this explosion.

Some of these factors included several societal issues that are still present in America today:
• Overcrowded and poor living conditions
• The struggles between immigrants from Europe and blacks (freed slaves and their children) moving to Chicago to seek a better life
• Business owners who were exploiting workers with long hours and low wages, and pitting the groups against each other
• Lawless gangs protecting their turf and terrorizing citizens with little intervention from law enforcement.

This thoughtful exploration of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th of south side Chicago faithfully documents a part of history that needs to be remembered and learned from.

I thank the University of Chicago Magazine for bringing this author and her books to light, and I thank Claire Hartfield (link to Claire’s website) for gifting us with these two important literary contributions.

Divided We Stand – Racism in America from Jamestown to Trump – A book review

David R. Morse, author and President / CEO of New American Dimensions

As a diversity consultant with a deep expertise in LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) diversity, about half my clients do engage me for all areas of diversity and inclusion, which includes race. Even though the diversity discipline has evolved from the initial areas of gender and race to now include LGBT, generational, cognitive, the differently-abled, and more; racial issues certainly need to continue to be front and center. (see my blog “The Various Growing Types of Diversity.”)

Though a good number of white people believe that the racial discrimination of the past is eradicated, the black community for the most part, as well as statistical realities, would indicate otherwise. And racial tensions continue to rage as we have seen in the disproportionate number of black men and boys killed by police, the black lives matter movement, and the increased number of race related hate groups becoming active in the United States. (see my blog “Facing the Truth – Racism Still Persists in the USA.”)

I have recently read a most fascinating book which places racism in the United States in a much broader historical perspective since the very beginnings of our nation’s founding. In “Divided We Stand,” David R. Morse provides a full historical account of the many forms of racism that has been a part of our country’s history. It is important to own this part of our history, and by understanding history, we can all work together to build a more just society.

The sections of this fascinating book full of interesting accounts and data include:

“Divided We Stand” is a fascinating book detailing various types of racism throughout the USA’s history.

• The early struggles within white mostly Anglo-Saxon America in terms of integrating waves of immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Italy and Jews.

• The long African-American history from the days of slavery until today, including the doctrine of the “superior” Caucasian Race and the Jim Crow laws of the early 20th century.

• The history of Hispanic Americans starting with the treatment of the population already in the areas of the Southwest “conquered” by the USA up through the debate that continues to rage about illegal immigration.

• The history of Asian-Americans, their treatment and oppression during the gold rush days of California and the building of the western railroads, our government’s agreements with Japan, up to many who view Asians as the “model minority.”

• Scholarly discussion on the science around genetics and race, and then closing with the landscape of race relations in the USA today.

This book certainly made me aware of so much more of the history and dynamics behind the multiplicity of racial issues in our diverse country from its very beginning. And hopefully by understanding this history, we can all unite more rigorously to build a stronger country from our profound and unique blend of diversity.

I highly recommend this book!

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Direct LINK to order:

Author David R. Morse is President and CEO of New American Dimensions (link), a market research company focused on Hispanic, African American, Asian American and LGBTQ Americans.