April 16, 2010
10-074

Kate Elliot
Communications Specialist

Professor Authors New Perspectives on African American History

VALDOSTA -- History Professor Dr. Dixie Haggard, who specializes in Colonial and Revolutionary America, published his first book -- "African Americans in the Nineteenth Century: People and Perspectives." The edited volume, which also features chapters from VSU professors Drs. David Williams and Mary Block, is part of a 16-volume series that explores how ordinary Americans struggled through pivitol eras in U.S. history.

The 251-page volume includes essays, reference materials and copies of primary documents from the time period to guide researchers and enthusiasts through some of the issues blacks faced during the 19th Century. Haggard wrote the chapter, "Black Indians: America's Forgotten People," to discuss an underrepresented group that was denied its heritage by being ostracized by both races.

"This tragic conquest of Native America and the horrific enslavement of Africans created these people," Haggard writes in the book. "Because of the denial of racial and cultural plurality, however, Black Indians have continually had to negotiate their identity in the face of white, and sometimes Native and African American, denial of their dual heritage."

Dr. Mary Block, who specializes in legal/constitutional issues, wrote "African American Responses to Early Jim Crow," which reflects on how the Jim Crow system impacted the nation, and how blacks fought back against the laws that segregated and disenfranchised them.

"I began with the rise of Jim Crow in the North, especially Massachusetts and New York, then discussed it in the American West, and ended with the Supreme Court case of Plessy v Ferguson (1896) where the nation’s highest court sanctioned the malicious system of racial segregation," Block said. "It was also important to highlight that just as they found myriad ways to resist slavery -- some overt but mostly covert -- African Americans found a whole host of means by which to resist Jim Crow."

Dr. David Williams and his wife, Teresa Crisp Williams, wrote "Yes, We All Shall Be Free:" African Americans Make the Civil War a Struggle for Freedom," which showcases the efforts of slaves in procuring freedoms during the Civil War era. The chapter also proposes that history has given former President Abraham Lincoln and other government figures too much credit in their motivations for the freedom movement.

"He stuck to his Ten Percent Plan, as did his successor, Andrew Johnson, and left the fate of free blacks largely in the hands of former slaveholders. What freedom blacks could wrest out of that relationship would be of their own making," they wrote in the chapter.

Haggard said he invited contributors to the book who would provide fresh perspectives and methodologies about the time period. Primary documents, pictures, reference lists and chronologies supplement the author's essays and chapters.

"I decided to recruit specialists in other fields than specifically African American history in an attempt to create something a little different by getting alternative perspectives from scholars using different methodologies," Haggard said. "Several authors provide new research, specifically Crystal Johnson's and Mark Hersey’s essays are what I would call new additions to the field as well as Dawn Herd-Clark’s, Karen Wilson's, and Jennifer Hildebrand’s essays."

What do you hope readers get out of reading the volume?

"The reader should be able to pick up this book and develop a basic understanding of the African American social experience in the 19th century by reading the 12 essays provided as well as the introduction to the book. It is a book for students, researchers and even the average person with an interest in this time period and these issues. The reader is also given many resources in this book, including a definition section, chronology, bibliography, and the documents needed to take the learning or researching process to a deeper level, if they so desire."

What's next for you?

"I’m working on a book for Facts on File called 'Indian Country, 1866 to 1933,' and I am finishing up revisions to my dissertation, 'Their Own Way of Warring: The Making and Persistence of Cherokee and Muscogulge Identity to 1800,' which traces the coalescence and identity formation of the Cherokees, Muscogee Creeks, and Seminoles from their Mississippian antecedents to the implementation of the U. S. Civilization Plan (which was supposed to assimilate Native people into Anglo American culture and society and free up Native land for Anglo American farmers). The Civilization Plan was the first organized Indian policy by the government, and it assumed that all Native people were hunters and gatherers despite the fact that the groups I cover had been farming for almost 1,000 years at a minimum."


This article is part of a series of Faculty/Staff Spotlights to showcase the endeavors and achievements of VSU employees. Know someone who should be featured? E-mail the Communications Unit at news@valdosta.edu .