Book exhibit: Counternarratives: Critical Race Theory in Context

Counternarratives: Critical Race Theory in Context is a new book display that seeks to expand, contextualize, and nuance the conversations about theories of race and racialization in academia and contemporary debate. 

Unlike what liberal and conservative media would like you to believe, Critical Race Theory is NOT a catch-all term for anything written by or about people of color. It’s not diversity, equity, and inclusion training. It’s not books like How to Be an Antiracist or White Fragility on your parents’ coffee table. It’s not even academic scholarship written about race. 

CRT is a field of legal scholarship about race in America that emerged out of Critical Legal Studies in the latter half of the twentieth century advanced by scholars including Derrick Bell and Kimberlé Crenshaw.1 Since its inception, CRT has expanded and spread into other fields, especially education, and taken on new forms such as AsianCrit, LatCrit, TribalCrit, and Critical Whiteness Studies. 

CRT is part of a large web of scholarship and theory about race, racism, and racialization. It exists in conversation, disagreement, and solidarity with other expansive and interconnected fields of thought such as Black Studies, Postcolonial Studies, Black Feminism, Carceral Studies, and Critical Indigenous Studies. 

Crenshaw uses the term intersectionality to describe how different structures of oppression intersect to affect marginalized communities. Thinking about the ways these structures and forms of violence overlap is important, but so is their specificity. 

Likewise, we can think of these disciplines as intersecting and interwoven attempts to study racism, colonialism, and violence in their many forms. Many of the books on display here could fit into more than one of these fields as well as other disciplines or fields that are not represented here. However, each field has its own traditions, archives, and strategies for thinking about race. 

Contextualizing CRT within this larger constellation can help us be smarter and think critically about modern understandings of race and racism. 

You can access the materials within this exhibit through the Library’s Featured Collections. You can check out any of the materials in the display by taking the item and your library card to the front desk. You can check out ebooks by scanning the QR codes that take you to the catalog record.

Organized by Ben Read and Ann Matsushima Chiu. Special thanks to Sarah Bavier, Angie Beiriger, Nick Campigli, Lily De La Fuente, Tracy Drake, Kyle Napoli, Caroline Reul, and Bee Yermish. Images from W. E. B. Du Bois.

Janel George, “A Lesson on Critical Race Theory,” Human Rights Magazine, January 11, 2021, https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/civil-rights-reimagining-policing/a-lesson-on-critical-race-theory/.

Exhibit: Race, Politics, and Women’s Rights: Visions of a New United States

Many have already heard of The Liberator, the 19th-century abolitionist newspaper created by William Lloyd Garrison. However, a new magazine under the same name emerged in the twentieth century. First published in the spring of 1918, the twentieth century Liberator continued the fight for equality: it focused on worker’s rights, women’s rights, and promoted socialism as an alternative to capitalism.

During World War One, the Wilson administration passed the 1917 Espionage Act and the 1918 Sedition Act. The legislation prohibited subversive speech that critiqued the draft, the Constitution, or the United States government.1 Subsequently, the U.S. government shut down socialist political magazine The Masses and prosecuted its editor Max Eastman.2 With the magazine effectively terminated by the U.S. government, Eastman and his sister Crystal founded The Liberator to succeed the defunct Masses.

The Eastmans were an accomplished pair of American activists. Crystal Eastman (b.1881-d.1928) was a labor lawyer, suffragist, socialist, and journalist who worked with her brother (as a co-editor) on the socialist magazine The Liberator. Much of Eastman’s journalistic work focused on the suffrage movement and workers’ rights in the early twentieth century. In 1917, before The Liberator’s creation, Crystal Eastman and other activists established the National Civil Liberties Bureau, which later became the ACLU, to fight government repression of dissenters’ rights during the First World War.3 Eastman is also credited with co-founding the Congressional Union in 1913 (later known as the National Woman’s Party) and supported the Equal Rights Amendment of 1923, a proposed amendment to eliminate federal and state laws that discriminate against women.4 

Max Eastman (b.1883-d.1969) was a poet, editor of The Masses and the Liberator, and a prominent socialist and women’s rights activist in the early twentieth century. In 1910 he and other activists founded the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage.5 Despite his professed belief in men and women’s equality, critics have noted a majority of The Liberator’s articles on women’s issues were written by men. Around 1 January 1922, Eastman passed his editorial position down to literary critic Floyd Dell. Under Dell’s supervision, the magazine’s focus shifted from politics to arts and culture.

First published in the Spring of 1918, a reader could pick up an issue of the  magazine for twenty cents and read about the American labor movement, reports from post-war Europe, and John Reed’s reporting from the USSR. Political art and poetry fleshed out the remainder of the magazine. Contributors included prominent writers such as Claude McKay, a Jamaican-born poet and key figure in the Harlem Renaissance. 

Born Festus Claudius Mckay (b.1889-d.1948), McKay was one of the most important poets of the Harlem Renaissance. His work ranged from vernacular verses celebrating Jamaica to poems that protested racial and economic inequality.6 

In 1912, using a stipend he earned from the Jamaican Institute of Arts and Sciences, McKay left Jamaica for college in the United States. He attended Tuskegee Institute for two months before transferring to Kansas State College. In 1914 McKay departed college for New York City. His experiences with racism in the United States encouraged him to continue writing poetry.7 

In 1919, McKay met and befriended Max Eastman, who later hired McKay as co-editor for The Liberator in 1921: a position McKay would maintain until 1922.8 McKay published several poems in The Liberator, most notably the enthralling poem If We Must Die.9 The poem was first published in the July 1919 issue of The Liberator and republished in several magazines.10 The poem’s publication date is significant as 1919 was one of the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century. There was the Influenza A pandemic, workers unrest, and the Red Summer. If We Must Die was a direct response to news of the race riots that spread across the United States. According to Juliana Spahr’s analysis of the poem, “Claude McKay’s If We Must Die is the poem of this moment, one that captured the zeitgeist as if McKay were a prophet, and not a mere writer.”11 

Along with politics, the magazine’s visual material included a variety of illustrations and cartoons contributed by artists such as Cornelia Barns, William Gropper, and Art Young. 

Born in Philadelphia in 1888, Cornelia Barns was an American illustrator and suffragette. She began contributing illustrations to Eastman’s first magazine, The Masses, in 1914. Barns was one of a  few women who played a significant part in the creation of The Masses. In 1917, Barns moved with her family to California with her husband and child. Committed to radical political and social change, Barns continued to provide art to The Liberator, New Masses, and Suffragist after moving to California.12 

One of Barns’ most notable covers for The Liberator, Strike!, depicts women from the International Garment Workers Union who, in 1919, went on strike for a 44-hour work-week in New York.13 Inside the magazine one could learn more: “Our Cover design, drawn by Cornelia Barns, will carry to readers all over the country something of the spirit with which Local 25 of the International Garment Workers is conducting its strike for the 44 hour-week in New York. Eighty-five percent of the strikers are girls. Of the 35,000 who went out on January 21st, 23,000 have already won their terms and gone back to work. The rest are sticking it out magnificently.”14

Contributions from famous American cartoonists Art Young and William Gropper cemented The Liberator’s status as an influential socialist magazine within New York’s publishing scene. Art Young (b.1866-d.1943) was an American illustrator and activist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1884 he moved to Chicago and studied art and supported himself by drawing newspaper cartoons. In 1903 he moved to New York, and worked as an illustrator for The Masses. After the magazine’s suppression by the U.S. government, Young worked with the Eastmans to produce artwork for The Liberator until the magazine was merged with other left-wing publications to form Workers Monthly in 1924.15

William Gropper was another illustrator who contributed his art to The Liberator. The son of Jewish immigrants, Gropper took art courses as a teenager at an experimental socialist school. After winning awards for his drawings, Gropper took a job with the New York Tribune. His supervisors at the tribune fired him when they discovered his left-wing political connections.16 

By 1922, The Liberator achieved a circulation of 60,000 readers, but Max Eastman desired to shift focus towards book writing and left for the Soviet Union.17 When finances became an issue later that year, the Communist Party of America (CPA) moved in for a friendly takeover. The political party worked with Eastman, Dell, and other writers for the transition. By fall 1922, the magazine became an official organ of the CPA, and political content returned to the foreground.18 

In 1924 The Liberator was merged with other magazines to form a new publication, Workers Monthly. The magazine would change names again to The Communist in 1927 until settling on the title Political Affairs in 1946.19 

To learn more about The Liberator, visit the Special Collections and Archives exhibit, Race, Politics, and Women’s Rights: Visions of a New United States, curated by Nick Campigli, on the library’s main level across from the reference desk. Or, email archives@reed.edu to schedule an appointment with Reed Special Collections and Archives.

To learn more about The Liberator’s contributors, see the book Crystal Eastman: A Revolutionary Life, or view our catalog of Claude McKay’s literature.

  1. Daniel G Donalson, The Espionage and Sedition Acts of World War I Using Wartime Loyalty Laws for Revenge and Profit (El Paso: LFB Scholarly Pub., 2012), http://site.ebrary.com/id/10610281, 2-3.
  2. “Max Forrester Eastman (1883-1969) | American Experience | PBS,” accessed October 13, 2021, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/goldman-max-forrester-eastman-1883-1969/.
  3. “Crystal Eastman,” American Civil Liberties Union, accessed October 28, 2021, https://www.aclu.org/other/crystal-eastman.
  4. “Crystal Eastman | American Lawyer, Writer, Activist,” Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed October 13, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Crystal-Eastman.
  5. “Max Forrester Eastman (1883-1969) | American Experience | PBS.”
  6. Poetry Foundation, “Claude McKay,” text/html, Poetry Foundation, October 13, 2021, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/claude-mckay.
  7. Ibid.
  8. “Claude M’Kay, African Poet. Made Co-Editor” The Chicago Defender, accessed October 13, 2021, https://www.proquest.com/docview/491882707?accountid=13475&forcedol=true.
  9. “The Liberator, July 1919,” The Liberator, accessed October 13, 2021, http://dlib.nyu.edu/liberator/books/lib000020/, 21.
  10.  “‘Our Precious Blood May Not Be Shed’ | Claude McKay,” Lapham’s Quarterly, accessed October 14, 2021, https://www.laphamsquarterly.org/roundtable/our-precious-blood-may-not-be-shed.
  11. Juliana Spahr, “Hearing the Pandemic in Claude McKay’s ‘If We Must Die,’” PMLA 136, no. 2 (March 2021): 254–57, https://doi.org/10.1632/S0030812921000158.
  12. “Barns, Cornelia Baxter (1888–1941) | Encyclopedia.Com,” accessed October 13, 2021, https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/barns-cornelia-baxter-1888-1941.
  13. “GARMENT WORKERS ORDERED TO STRIKE; Union Calls Upon 35,000 Members to Quit Their Employment At 10 o’Clock This Morning. APPEAL FOR GOOD ORDER Right to Discharge at Issue–Demands Include 44-Hour Weekend Advance in Wages.,” accessed October 15, 2021, http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1919/01/21/97060727.html?pageNumber=22.
  14. “The Liberator, April 1919,” The Liberator, accessed October 13, 2021, http://dlib.nyu.edu/liberator/books/lib000016/, 2. 
  15. “Art Young,” accessed October 14, 2021, https://academic.eb.com/?target=%2Flevels%2Fcollegiate%2Farticle%2FArt-Young%2F78052.
  16. “William Gropper | Smithsonian American Art Museum,” accessed October 14, 2021, https://americanart.si.edu/artist/william-gropper-1957.
  17. Paul Buhle, Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left (London: Verso, 1987), 172.
  18. “The Liberator.”
  19. Ibid.

Continued Resistance: A Legacy of Activism in the Asian American and Pacific Islander Diaspora

New exhibit now open in the library: Continued Resistance: A Legacy of Activism in the Asian American and Pacific Islander Diaspora.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen an influx of recent racist attacks targeting Asian Americans stigmatized by misinformation and xenophobia. 2021 was marked by slogans like “We are not the virus,” #StopAAPIHate, and racially motivated attacks like the Atlanta spa shootings, which galvanized protests and community vigils throughout the country. This wasn’t the first time that Asians and Pacific Islanders stood up to demand justice for their communities. 

From Native Hawaiian activists fighting for their sacred lands to Asian Americans coalitions organizing and demanding civil rights, the activists featured in this exhibit represent intersectional identities that showcase a legacy of continued resistance and protest for change. 

With artwork featuring living and past activists such as Alok Vaid-Menon, Alice Wong, Haunani Kay-Trask and Yuri Kochiyama, Reed students can explore scholarship that showcases how the AAPI diaspora communities have come together, spoken out against injustice, and are resilient in the face of adversity. 

Find the exhibit on the main level of the library near the elevator.

As a part of the Reed College community, we welcome you to share your stories and photos of how you work toward justice in your own communities in the community response area.

You can access the materials within this exhibit through the Library’s Featured Collections. You can check out any of the materials in the display by taking the item and your library card to the front desk. You can check out ebooks by scanning the QR codes that take you to the catalog record.

Organized by Reed College librarians Ann Matsushima Chiu and Lily De La Fuente.

Artwork posters commissioned by muralist Alex Chiu.

Echoes of Harlem

There’s a time travel portal next to the reference desk.

1920s and 1930s Harlem NYC was a time when African American arts and culture flourished. Jazz music from Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong could be heard floating from Harlem nightclubs. Painters such as Jacob Lawrence and Archibald Motley chronicled the daily lives of African Americans.

It was also a politically and racially charged time in US history. If you walked down 5th Avenue you might see a black flag hanging from the NAACP office that proclaimed “A MAN WAS LYNCHED YESTERDAY” in bold white lettering.

Whether you’re interested in Harlem Renaissance aesthetic, culture, or politics, our book display has something for you. Come discover a good read and learn about the Echoes of Harlem that still reverberate throughout NYC and the USA today.

All items available for checkout!

Hidden Histories of Race & Reed

New exhibit! “Hidden Histories of Race & Reed”, developed and curated by Ashley San Miguel and Maya Arigala, opened in the second floor Eliot Hall display cases Friday December 13th.

Flyer for exhibit. Black and white photograph of Reed students protesting outside of Eliot Hall with signs. Flyer text reads: "Exhibit unveiling: hidden histories of race & Reed. Join us at the second floor Eliot display cases! December 13th Drop in between 5pm-7pm. Reception in Eliot 216, food will be provided. Vegan & GF options. Sponsored by: social justice fund, library archives, office for institutional diversity. Email ashsanmic@reed.edu or arigalam@reed.edu with questions."

This exhibit uses items from the Reed College Archives to chart the 1968 Black Student Union (BSU) protests to install a Black Studies Center at Reed, and the subsequent rise and dissolution of the center just a few years later.

Black and white photograph of Reed students protesting outside of Eliot Hall with signs. The photograph is the same as used in the event flyer.
Black Studies Demonstration, Eliot Hall 1968. Photograph by Stephen S. Robinson, class of 1972.

Selections from a Gift of Richard Danzig ’65

 

A display of materials from a donation by  Dr. Richard Danzig ’65  are now on view. These publications relate to nineteenth and twentieth century India and contain demographic information, offer insights into constitutional reform and recount the deeds of Indian intellectuals that shaped India’s past, present, and future.

This display is located on the rear side of the Reference Desk bookshelf and will be on view until May 21, 2019.

For more information or comments please contact sbavier@reed.edu.

Reed Student Publications


April 6 – June 1, 2018
Flat cases and wall case by the Reference Desk

In many ways, the types of publications Reed students choose to produce are indicative of much larger social trends at the college and beyond. The newest exhibit from the Archives and Special Collections, “Student Publications at Reed” takes a look at the ways students have used pamphlets, comic books, journals, fliers and more as a media by which to process their world. Take a look through a few, and you might just get a glimpse of Reed of yesteryear…

An Identity Crises: Images of Dissent at Reed, 1966-1972

Like any institution, Reed College has always been shaped by the individuals who care about it most. Founded out of Progressive Era ideals, Reed’s early years were fueled by a desire to reject the status quo of other institutions. This Reedie way of life, however, was not always interpreted in the same way. In the 1960s Reed was beginning to undergo an ideological schism between the Old Guard, Reed’s established faculty and administrators, and the Young Turks, the younger, often un-tenured faculty. This exhibit and corresponding website uses items from the college archives to give an overview of Reed’s identity crisis and the global issues which pitted the young thinkers against the status quo.

The exhibit runs from December 8th 2017- February 1st, 2018. Curated by Emily Jane Clark, Social Justice Exhibits and Research Intern.

See the online exhibit here (http://blogs.reed.edu/an-identity-crisis/)

Great Ideas: The Inventivity of Books

April 4 – June 23, 2017
Flat cases and wall case by the Reference Desk

Surprisingly, the book format has long experienced creative developments. Though outliers to the normal codex format, the items shown in this exhibit confirm that bookmakers are ingenious in their invention. From the physical—like The Invisible Book made out of clear tape–to the shaped, such as Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, and from the food box of Eat and Die to the Viewmaster of Mushrooms in Their Natural Habitats, there will be something to impress and surprise the viewer.

Illustrated Books: Interior Pictures – Exterior Views

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December 1, 2016 to February 22, 2017
Flat and wall cases in the library

A selection of illustrated volumes from the library’s special collections is on display ranging from the early Book of Kells through contemporary artists’ books and from hand-colored pochoir to comics. Come see the beauty of book illustrations and enjoy their many forms from the Reed collections.