Let’s Talk About It: Violence & Belonging, Race & Justice

Between-the-World-and-Me-0-290x370Violence and Belonging: The 14th Amendment and American Literature 

In examining the legacies of the Fourteenth Amendment for the nation’s literary history, this reading and discussion series looks at books that address issues of diversity, identity, and inequality in exploring how, for many Americans, the promise of citizenship falls short of their reality.

  • Between the World And Me by Ta–Nehisi Coates
  • A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
  • Marrow of Tradition by Charles Chestnut
  • Once in a Promised Land by Laila Halaby
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich

By any account, we are still living out the reverberations of the transformative moment that gave rise to the Fourteenth Amendment. Its 150th anniversary coincides with a presidential election year in which the nature and meaning of race and the significance of the nation’s history of slavery are of urgent popular concern. An important part of the backdrop and at times the foreground of these narratives is violence, in the form of legal and unofficial discrimination, sexual and physical abuse, murder and mass killings, colonialism, and military occupations. Read together, these diverse works of literature serve to remind us that the more expansive version of American citizenship brought about by the Fourteenth Amendment was formed in the wake of searing violence and historical traumas—the long arc of slavery in the U.S. and the bloody Civil War that brought about its end and also the massacre of Native Americans and their forced removal from tribal homelands.

the-fire-this-time-9781501126345_hrRace and Justice in America

  • Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched A Hundred Years of Federalism  by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips, Jr.
  • Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
  • The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins by Brenda Stevenson
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward

This series explores the complex, and often uneasy, relationship between black Americans and the American justice system. Developed by project scholar Leroy Rowe, Assistant Professor of African American History and Politics, University of Southern Maine, and librarian consultants Elizabeth Hartsig (Portland Public Library) and Holly Williams (Pittsfield Public Library), the books selected for Race and Justice in America provide historical analyses of selected events, court rulings, and public policies that help to explain the black American struggle for citizenship, civil rights, and equal treatment under the laws.

Race and Justice in America also explores the changing boundaries and content of state and national citizenship. The core questions that the series engages are: how was membership in the social and political community defined for African Americans and whites in the United States? How have those definitions changed over time? And in what ways did individuals and communities exercise rights as citizens and experience those rights differently?