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Scholar to speak on African-American and Latinx history in the US

Thursday, September 13, 2018

LAWRENCE — Paul Ortiz, associate professor of history at the University of Florida, will give a lecture based on his book "An African American and Latinx History of the United States" (Beacon Press) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, in the Hall Center Conference Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public, books will be available for sale, and a signing will follow. 

Spanning more than 200 years, "An African American and Latinx History of the United States" is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the “Global South” was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like “manifest destiny” and “Jacksonian democracy,” and he shows how placing African-American, Latinx and indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms U.S. history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.

Drawing on rich narratives and primary source documents, Ortiz links racial segregation in the Southwest and the rise and violent fall of a powerful tradition of Mexican labor organizing in the 20th century, to May 1, 2006, known as International Workers’ Day, when migrant laborers — Chicana/os, Afrocubanos, and immigrants from every continent on earth — united in resistance on the first “Day Without Immigrants.” As African-American civil rights activists fought Jim Crow laws and Mexican labor organizers warred against the suffocating grip of capitalism, black and Spanish-language newspapers, abolitionists and Latin American revolutionaries coalesced around movements built between people from the United States and people from Central America and the Caribbean. In stark contrast to the resurgence of “America First” rhetoric, Black and Latinx intellectuals and organizers today have historically urged the United States to build bridges of solidarity with the nations of the Americas.

Incisive and timely, this bottom-up history, told from the interconnected vantage points of Latinx and African-Americans, reveals the radically different ways that people of the diaspora have addressed issues still plaguing the United States today, and it offers a way forward in the continued struggle for universal civil rights.

Ortiz is also director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. He has published and taught in the fields of African-American history, Latino studies, the African diaspora, social movement theory, U.S. history, U.S. South, labor and documentary studies. He is the author of "Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920" (University of California Press) and co-editor of the oral history "Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South" (The New Press).                                                         

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Hall Center for the Humanities and the Department of American Studies.