Juneteenth: African-American History in the History Department

The Berkeley History Department has a distinguished tradition  in the study of African-American history. To commemorate Juneteenth 2020, we offer a select list of fifteen books—starting with Kenneth Stampp’s pathbreaking 1956 study The Peculiar Institution and ending with Stephanie Jones-Rogers’ award-winning 2019 book They Were Her Property—that showcase some of the finest scholarship  on the history of Black America produced by UC Berkeley historians.

1. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Antebellum South, Kenneth M. Stampp (Knopf, 1956)

Transformed U.S. slavery studies through its emphasis on slave resistance (rather than docility) and slavery as inherently violent (rather than genteel), comparing plantations to concentration camps.

Book cover North of Slavery; the Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860 (University of Chicago Press, 1961)

2. North of Slavery; the Negro in the Free States, 1790-1860, Leon F. Litwack (University of Chicago Press, 1961)

Recast historical understanding by persuasively demonstrating anti-Black prejudice and discrimination to be a national, especially Northern, as well as Southern phenomenon.

Book cover White Over Black

3. White Over Black: American Attitudes towards the Negro, 1550-1812, Winthrop D. Jordan (University of North Carolina Press, 1968)

Reshaped historical awareness by compellingly dissecting the historical origins of white racism.

Book cover Black Culture and Black Consciousness

4. Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom, Lawrence W. Levine (Oxford University Press, 1977)

Transfigured cultural and intellectual history in its highly original examination of the rich thought of ordinary Black folks.

Book cover Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery

5. Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery, Leon F. Litwack (Knopf, 1979).

By centering both the enslaved and the freed, this work recast and deepened our understanding of U.S. slave emancipation.

Book Cover The Mind of Frederick Douglass

6. The Mind of Frederick Douglass, Waldo E. Martin Jr. (University of North Carolina Press, 1984)

A pioneering and influential intellectual biography of the most important Black leader of the nineteenth century.

Book cover Trouble in Mind

7. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow, Leon F. Litwack (Knopf, 1998)

Insightful and powerful examination of freedom’s first generation, especially how Black southerners carved out meaningful lives amidst the horrors of Jim Crow’s imposition.

Book cover - Brown v. Board of Education, Martin

8. Brown v. Board of Education: A Brief History with Documents, Waldo E. Martin, Jr. (Bedford, 1998, 2020)

Vital and perceptive examination of the history of the transformative case that helped kill Jim Crow.

Book cover: The Claims of Kinfolk, Penningroth

9. The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South, Dylan C. Penningroth (University of North Carolina Press, 2003)

Brilliantly illuminates the history of property ownership among enslaved people across the antebellum south, showing how informal systems of property rights came to shape community and family ties.

Book cover: No Coward Soldiers, Martin

10. No Coward Soldiers: Black Cultural Politics in Postwar America, Waldo E. Martin, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2005)

Innovative and wide-ranging examination of the cultural dimension of the modern African-American freedom struggle.

Book cover: How Free is Free, Litwack

11. How Free is Free: The Long Death of Jim Crow, Leon F. Litwack (Harvard University Press, 2009)

A survey of the Black experience from Reconstruction to Hurricane Katrina.

Book cover: Accounting for Slavery, Rosenthal

14. Accounting for Slavery: Masters and Management, Caitlin C. Rosenthal (Harvard University Press, 2018)

Integrates slavery into business history, showing how slaveholders used their power over enslaved people as a management strategy.

Book cover: They Were Her Property, Jones-Rogers

15. They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (Yale University Press, 2019)

Uncovers the extensive engagement of white women in slavery as an economic system, decisively overturning the entrenched idea that women were less-invested in slavery.

June 18, 2020

Today, we highlight the historical texts produced by our own History faculty, who, in contributing to scholarship about African-American history, have expanded how scholars interrogate North American history as a whole.