To read this special Text and Meaning Series from the beginning, please see the links at the end of the article. Part 4 begins now:
For those able to accept the image of history as a clock ticking its way along a circular timeline, it is more natural to imagine the hands of that clock moving forward rather than backward. Yet the June 2015 protests in McKinney, a suburb of Dallas, Texas, and the uprising in Baltimore, Maryland, combined with protest demonstrations the previous year in Ferguson, Missouri, New York City, Cleveland, and elsewhere prompted many Americans to question why history appears to be ticking so relentlessly––much like a two-ton bomb built for maximum destruction––in reverse.
Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay could easily have surveyed the current state of African America––when many, ironically it seems, are observing the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth [adopted in 2021 as a federal holiday]–– and been as compelled now as he was in 1919 to pen the powerful lines of “If We Must Die.” The miracle at this hour, however, may be the remarkable restraint that African Americans continue to exhibit in the face of unceasing aggressive brutality.
Whether due in 2015 to the presence of a Black man in the White House or out of respect for the examples provided by Martin Luther King Jr. and others, multiple generations of African Americans have avoided allowing their frustrations erupt into the kind of violence that ended with so many dead during the Red Summer of 1919.
Winner of Choice Academic Title Award, Best History Book Award, and Notable Book of the Year Award for Encyclopedia of the Harlem Remaisssance.