Celebrating Banned Book Week

This week in North Philly Notes, in honor of Banned Book Week, we highlight Temple University Press’ Critical Race Theory titles.

Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory, edited by Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp and Angela P. Harris

Its opponents call it part of “the lunatic fringe,” a justification for “black separateness,” “the most embarrassing trend in American publishing.” “It” is Critical Race Theory. But what is Critical Race Theory? How did it develop? Where does it stand now? Where should it go in the future? In this volume, thirty-one CRT scholars present their views on the ideas and methods of CRT, its role in academia and in the culture at large, and its past, present, and future.

Critical race theorists assert that both the procedures and the substance of American law are structured to maintain white privilege. The neutrality and objectivity of the law are not just unattainable ideals; they are harmful actions that obscure the law’s role in protecting white supremacy. This notion—so obvious to some, so unthinkable to others—has stimulated and divided legal thinking in this country and, increasingly, abroad. The essays in Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory—all original—address this notion in a variety of helpful and exciting ways. They use analysis, personal experience, historical narrative, and many other techniques to explain the importance of looking critically at how race permeates our national consciousness.

Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, Third Edition, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Critical Race Theory has become a dynamic, eclectic, and growing movement in the study of law. With this third edition of Critical Race Theory, editors Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic have created a reader for the twenty-first century—one that shakes up the legal academy, questions comfortable liberal premises, and leads the search for new ways of thinking about our nation’s most intractable, and insoluble, problem—race. The contributions, from a stellar roster of established and emerging scholars, address new topics, such as intersectionality and black men on the “down low.” Essays also confront much-discussed issues of discrimination, workplace dynamics, affirmative action, and sexual politics. Also new to this volume are updated section introductions, author notes, questions for discussion, and reading lists for each unit. The volume also covers the spread of the movement to other disciplines such as education. Offering a comprehensive and stimulating snapshot of current race jurisprudence and thought, this new edition of Critical Race Theory is essential for those interested in law, the multiculturalism movement, political science, education, and critical thought.

The editors also published Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

A Q&A with Temple University Press’ new Editorial Assistant, Will Forrest

This week in North Philly Notes, we get to learn more about Temple University Press’s new editorial assistant, Will Forrest, who joined the Temple University Press staff this week.


You are “returning” to the Press having worked here as a student. Can you talk about your experiences at the Press?

I first worked as an intern for TUP during my senior year as an undergraduate, mostly working on rights and contracts. I was amazed at the variety of responsibilities I was handed and their importance. It was not your typical mindless gofer intern busy work. I loved my time as an intern and got a feel for nearly every aspect of what it takes to publish a book. I am overjoyed to return as an editorial assistant!

What book(s) do you like to read/are you currently reading?

I am currently reading By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age by Paul Boyer. History is probably my biggest love, and oddly enough, I have been interested in the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war for most of my life (although the Soviet Union did not exist when I was born). I am also rereading Anthony Heilbut’s The Gospel Sound, his look at the vibrant and often underappreciated world of African-American gospel music. It might be my favorite book on American music.

Has any single book made a particularly strong impression on you? (What and why or how)?

Many of my strongest responses to books came early in my life, and the book that I credit with really sparking my interest in writing and storytelling is Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. It was the first book I remembered reading where I felt like I identified with the character, understood that he was speaking from a unique point of view, and made me feel less isolated. It launched me into reading Blume’s other books as well as other stories about teenagers and young adults. I still find that I especially like reading novels and consuming other media about young people, and my creative ideas are often filled with young people working things out.

You have an interest in playwriting. Can you tell us about that?

I have loved theater for most of my life, and writing has also been a major part of my life, but it wasn’t until around college that the two began to dovetail. I like the freedom and sparseness of writing plays compared to other forms. Most of my play ideas end up being rooted in history one way or another, and often my plays are places to string together seemingly separate interests and ideas I have. I actually have a play I wrote being read online at Temple this fall called Window of Vulnerability about nuclear war planning and its psychological impact on ordinary people during the Cold War.

When and how do you read?

I am a very undisciplined reader. I typically read in the evenings after most of my daily business is done, and read essentially until I get tired or disinterested, whichever comes first. Even if I am very engaged by a book I don’t usually feel the urge to finish it right there and then, and I sometimes then end up reading multiple books at a time. 

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

I would venture to say that many of my books on the Cold War might surprise some given the event took place before I was born. One that might surprise most people, especially people of a certain age, is Richard Zoglin’s biography HOPE of Bob Hope. It’s natural to wonder why any young person would be interested in the life of a comedian known for being a conservative square who performed well past his prime and toured the world with the USO. But American entertainment history is a major interest of mine, and like him or not (and some of his early movies aren’t bad), there are few entertainers as important to 20th century America as Bob Hope.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?

To be honest, I never really identified much with superheroes or superhero/comic culture in general aside from watching some of the films. I used to wear a Superman t-shirt that I won in a crane machine on the NJ boardwalk when I was much younger, and I suppose I still think he’s pretty cool. I also like Superman because he’s not as omnipresent as the Marvel heroes in today’s culture.

What Temple University Press book has particular meaning to you (and why)?

This is an unusual and obscure choice, but it is a book the Press published in 1974 called Broadcasting in Africa: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television. When my brother, who shares many of the same historical interests I do, found out I worked for the Temple University Press and that they had a library of their catalog, one of the first things he asked me about was this book. He wanted to know if they had it because it is very hard to find and one of the only books written during the era on the topic. It was this experience that made me realize the unique vision of TUP to publish pioneering works on topics that are not often written about, and it crystallized that the books TUP publishes are interesting to many diverse groups, including my brother.

What Temple University Press book would you recommend to someone?

I think Mary Lou Nemanic’s recent Metro Dailies in the Age of Multimedia Journalism is an incredibly important read for anyone who cares about truth. As local newspapers shutter around the country in the face of the digital revolution, especially in smaller communities, local stories and viewpoints slowly start to disappear from the nationwide conversation along with their invaluable investigations. Local dailies are often the first papers to report on what will become major national stories, and when they fall on hard times, things start to fall through the cracks.

What book will you read next?

My backlog of books to read is quite extensive. I have Peter Guralnick’s biography of Sam Cooke entitled Dream Boogie on my shelf, and as a huge fan of Cooke, that era of American music, and Guralnick’s other books, I will devour it. I also just bought Vincent J. Indonti’s African Americans Against the Bomb and am very excited to read it.

What three writers would you invite to a dinner party?

Even though I read largely non-fiction, I think great fiction storytellers might make better dinner party guests because of their natural inclination towards dreaming worlds and listening to their characters. So I would invite Judy Blume and Elena Ferrante, two of my favorite living novelists (I hopefully will have learned Italian to speak with Elena) as well as Sarah Ruhl, a playwright I admire very much. I would pay homage and hopefully we would spend the evening talking about everything other than their work. I’m also not much of a cook, so if any of them have any specialties or feel inclined to provide courses, I would be ecstatic.

What will work eventually look like?

This week in North Philly Notes, we focus on our new and forthcoming Labor Studies titles in honor of Labor Day.

 Workforce Development 

The Many Futures of Work reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.  

America in the 20thcentury

Becoming Entitled examines Americans’ shift in thinking about government social insurance programs during the Great Depression.

Communists and Community shows what role Communists played in the advancement of social democracy. 

Elaine Black Yoneda (forthcoming) presents a critical biography of the Jewish labor activist and feminist pioneer. 

Industrial histories

“A Road to Peace and Freedom recounts the history of the International Workers Order.

From Collective Bargaining to Collective Begging analyzes the expansion and restriction of collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Social justice and social welfare 

Motherlands challenges preconceived notions of the states that support working mothers. 

Labor economics 

Daily Labors and its examination of Black and Latino day laborers’ experience on an NYC street corner.

Sociology of work 

A Collective Pursuit argues that teachers’ unions are working in community to reinvigorate the collective pursuit of reforms beneficial to both educators and public education.

Policing in Natural Disasters shows how disaster work impacts law enforcement officers and first responders.

Making Their Days Happen (forthcoming) explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

For all of our Labor Studies

Celebrating National Book Lover’s Day

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate National Book Lover’s Day with a collection of Temple University Press titles our staff members cherish.

Bass Line: The Stories and Photographs of Milt Hinton. Many years ago, in 1988, the Press published a collection of stories and photographs from the “dean of bass players,” Milt Hinton. Through this book I got to view the jazz world from an original source as Hinton played for over 50 years with all of the greats—Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, and my idol Sarah Vaughan, just to name a few. Recall that famous photo of Billie Holliday in the recording studio in 1958? Hinton took it! When the book was published, even Paul McCartney said of all the bass players he played with “…none were better than Milt…”  I treasure this TUP book!!—Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director

I cannot possibly choose a favorite, but I’d like to highlight one recent title I’m particularly proud of, John Kromer’s Philadelphia Battlefields: Disruptive Campaigns and Upset Elections in a Changing City. This book demonstrates something special about the Press. Most people know we have a strong list in scholarly titles focused on social change, as well as a top-notch regional trade list, but Kromer’s book nicely bridges these, with engaging stories and a scholarly backbone to teach us important lessons about politics in the city we love and call home.—Aaron Javsicas, Editor-in-Chief

P is for Philadelphia. I love that we published a children’s book that gives an alphabetical tour of our area, but the fact that it is illustrated by the children of Philadelphia makes it so much more special.—Karen Baker, Associate Director and Financial Manager

A Guide to the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region A beautifully illustrated look at the gardens in the area in a handheld book. What a wonderful way to reminisce of gardens visited or add to your must-see lists! Grab a copy, go outside, and enjoy!—Irene Imperio, Advertising and Promotions Manager

I wouldn’t dare choose between my projects and authors since I arrived at the Press, so I would point to our backlist title The Philosophy of Alain Locke.—Ryan Mulligan, Editor

I love Palestra Pandemonium. Before I came to Temple, or knew anything about TUP, I gifted this book to several Big 5 fans and Penn alums for whom the Palestra is hallowed ground.—Mary Rose Muccie, Director 

Celeste-Marie Bernier’s Suffering and Sunset. His story, and the sketches and paintings included in this book, are very moving and beautiful.—Kate Nichols, Art Director 

While I have too many favorites to count, in terms of recent publications I would like to give Q & A: Voices from Queer Asian North America a special mention. Working on this new volume that continues on in the spirit of the landmark Q & A: Queer in Asian America is just the type of opportunity that every editor hopes to find. Moreover, it was truly a pleasure shepherding a volume that has all the makings of a landmark volume in its own right.—Shaun Vigil, Editor

May-lee Chai’s poignant memoir, Hapa Girl, is a beautifully written, heartbreaking memoir about a mixed-race family struggling against racism in South Dakota. Chai proves how deep the bonds of family can be but also about her resilience during difficult times. While her story unfolds in the 1980s, it is, sadly, still timely today.—Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Celebrating Pennsylvania Day!

July 20 is National Pennsylvania Day. (Yes, historians, Pennsylvania was admitted to the Union December 12, 1787, the National Day Calendar is honoring each state, in order, each week following July 4). As such, Temple University Press is preparing to celebrate with our books that focus on the Keystone State.

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike.

Want to take the state’s temperature before there was COVID? The Health of the Commonwealth:A Brief History of Medicine, Public Health, and Disease in Pennsylvania, by James E. Higgins, provides an overview of medicine and public health in the state. Covering the outbreak of yellow fever in 1793 through the 1976 Legionnaires’ Disease epidemic, and the challenges of the present day, Higgins shows how Pennsylvania has played a central role in humanity’s understanding of—and progress against—disease. The Health of the Commonwealth places Pennsylvania’s unique contribution to the history of public health and medicine in a larger narrative of health and disease throughout the United States and the world.

Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 1, edited by J. Wesley Leckrone and Michelle J. Atherton, contains updated chapters from recent issues of Commonwealth: A Journal of Pennsylvania Politics and Policy on education, health care, public finance, tax policy, environmental policy, alcohol policy and more. Pennsylvania Politics and Policy: A Commonwealth Reader, Volume 2, edited by Michelle J. Atherton and J. Wesley Leckrone, focuses on government institutions, election laws, the judiciary, government finance and budgeting, the opioid crisis, childcare, property taxes, environmental policy, demographics, and more. In both volumes, each chapter is supplemented by discussion questions, suggestions for further reading, and forums with arguments in support of or opposed to contested elements of state policy.

The Scots Irish were one of early Pennsylvania’s largest non-English immigrant groups. They were stereotyped as frontier ruffians and Indian haters. In The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania, historian Judith Ridner insists that this immigrant group was socio-economically diverse. Servants and free people, individuals and families, and political exiles and refugees from Ulster, they not only pioneered new frontier settlements, but also populated the state’s cities—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—and its towns, such as Lancaster, Easton, and Carlisle.

Undocumented Fears, by Jamie Longazel shows how the local politics of immigration pit working people against one another. The Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA), passed in the small Rustbelt city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania in 2006, was a local ordinance that laid out penalties for renting to or hiring undocumented immigrants and declared English the city’s official language. The notorious IIRA gained national prominence and kicked off a parade of local and state-level legislative initiatives designed to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Longazel uses the debate around Hazleton’s controversial ordinance as a case study that reveals the mechanics of contemporary divide and conquer politics. He shows how neoliberal ideology, misconceptions about Latina/o immigrants, and nostalgic imagery of “Small Town, America” led to a racialized account of an undocumented immigrant “invasion,” masking the real story of a city beset by large-scale loss of manufacturing jobs.

And forthcoming this fall, Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly Tomek, corrects the long-held notion that slavery in the North was “not so bad” as, or somehow “more humane” than, in the South due to the presence of abolitionists. While the Quaker presence focused on moral and practical opposition to bondage, slavery was ubiquitous. Nevertheless, Pennsylvania was the first state to pass an abolition law in the United States. Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania traces this movement from its beginning to the years immediately following the American Civil War. Discussions of the complexities of the state’s antislavery movement illustrate how different groups of Pennsylvanians followed different paths in an effort to achieve their goal. Tomek also examines the backlash abolitionists and Black Americans faced. In addition, she considers the civil rights movement from the period of state reconstruction through the national reconstruction that occurred after the Civil War.

Announcing Temple University Press’ Fall Catalog

This week in North Philly Notes we showcase the titles forthcoming this Fall from Temple University Press

“Beyond the Law”: The Politics of Ending the Death Penalty for Sodomy in Britain, by Charles Upchurch, provides a major reexamination of the earliest British parliamentary efforts to abolish capital punishment for consensual sex acts between men.

Are You Two Sisters?: The Journey of a Lesbian Couple, by Susan Krieger, authored by one of the most respected figures in the field of personal ethnographic narrative, this book serves as both a memoir and a sociological study, telling the story of one lesbian couple’s lifelong journey together.

Asian American Connective Action in the Age of Social Media: Civic Engagement, Contested Issues, and Emerging Identities, by James S. Lai, examines how social media has changed the way Asian Americans participate in politics.

The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Second Reconstruction, by Shamira Gelbman, investigates how minority group, labor, religious, and other organizations worked together to lobby for civil rights reform during the 1950s and ’60s.

Elaine Black Yoneda: Jewish Immigration, Labor Activism, and Japanese American Exclusion and Incarceration, by Rachel Schreiber, tells the remarkable story of a Jewish activist who joined her imprisoned Japanese American husband and son in an American concentration camp.

Fitting the Facts of Crime: An Invitation to Biopsychosocial Criminology, by Chad Posick, Michael Rocque, and J.C. Barnes, presents a biopsychosocial perspective to explain the most common findings in criminology—and to guide future research and public policy.

From Improvement to City Planning: Spatial Management in Cincinnati from the Early Republic through the Civil War Decade, by Henry C. Binford, offers a “pre-history” of urban planning in the United States.

Gangs on Trial: Challenging Stereotypes and Demonization in the Courts, by John M. Hagedorn
, exposes biases in trials when the defendant is a gang member.

Invisible People: Stories of Lives at the Margins, by Alex Tizon, now in paperback, an anthology of richly reported and beautifully written stories about marginalized people.

Islam, Justice, and Democracy, by Sabri Ciftci, explores the connection between Muslim conceptions of justice and democratic orientations.

The Italian Legacy in Philadelphia: History, Culture, People, and Ideas, edited by Andrea Canepari and Judith Goode, provides essays and images showcasing the rich contribution of Italians and Italian Americans to Global Philadelphia.

Making a Scene: Urban Landscapes, Gentrification, and Social Movements in Sweden, by Kimberly A. Creasap, examines how autonomous social movements respond to gentrification by creating their own cultural landscape in cities and suburbs.

Making Their Days Happen: Paid Personal Assistance Services Supporting People with Disability Living in Their Homes and Communities, by Lisa I. Iezzoni, explores the complexities of the interpersonal dynamics and policy implications affecting personal assistance service consumers and providers.

The Many Futures of Work: Rethinking Expectations and Breaking Molds, edited by Peter A. Creticos, Larry Bennett, Laura Owen, Costas Spirou, and Maxine Morphis-Riesbeck, reframes the conversation about contemporary workplace experience by providing both “top down” and “bottom up” analyses.

On Gangs, by Scott H. Decker, David C. Pyrooz, and James A. Densley, a comprehensive review of what is known about gangs—from their origins through their evolution and outcomes.

Pack the Court!: A Defense of Supreme Court Expansion, by Stephen M. Feldman, provides a historical and analytical argument for court-packing.

Passing for Perfect: College Impostors and Other Model Minorities, by erin Khuê Ninh, considers how it feels to be model minority—and why would that drive one to live a lie?

Pedagogies of Woundedness: Illness, Memoir, and the Ends of the Model Minority, by James Kyung-Jin Lee, asks what happens when illness betrays Asian American fantasies of indefinite progress?

Slavery and Abolition in Pennsylvania, by Beverly C. Tomek, highlights the complexities of emancipation and the “First Reconstruction” in the antebellum North.

Vehicles of Decolonization: Public Transit in the Palestinian West Bank, by Maryam S. Griffin, considers collective Palestinian movement via public transportation as a site of social struggle.

Who Really Makes Environmental Policy?: Creating and Implementing Environmental Rules and Regulations, edited by Sara R. Rinfret, provides a clear understanding of regulatory policy and rulemaking processes, and their centrality in U.S. environmental policymaking.

Summer Reading

It’s Sum-Sum-Summertime, and the reading is Easy! This week in North Philly Notes, we showcase books that you should take on vacation—or that take you on a vacation, immersing you in places far-flung (or around the corner).

Vacations say a lot about individuals. They signal class and economic standing and reveal aspirations and goals. Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, by Karen Stein, insists that vacations are about more than just taking time off to relax and rejuvenate—they are about having some time to work on the person one wants to be. Where to read this book: On a flight somewhere.

In Real Philly History, Real Fast: Fascinating Facts and Interesting Oddities about the City’s Heroes and Historic Sites, Jim Murphy provides an original tour of the city. He highlights artistic gems including the Dream Garden Tiffany mosaic and Isaiah Zagar’s glittering Magic Gardens. He profiles intriguing historical figures from military leader Commodore Barry to civil rights heroes like Lucretia Mott. Murphy also explores neighborhoods from Chinatown to the Italian Market and the unique architectural details of Carpenters’ Hall and the PSFS building. Where to read this book: On SEPTA, or while waiting on line for a soft pretzel.

Artists of Wyeth Country: Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, and Andrew Wyeth, by W. Barksdale Maynard offers admirers of the Brandywine Tradition a chance to literally follow in these artists’ footsteps. Maynard provides six in-depth walking and driving tours that allow readers to visit the places the Wyeths and Pyle painted in Chadds Ford, PA. As he explains, Andrew Wyeth’s artistic process was influenced by Henry David Thoreau’s nature-worship and by simply walking daily. Maps, aerial photographs, as well as glorious full-color images and artworks of the landscape (many never reproduced before) illustrate the text. Where to read this book: While tracing the artists footsteps.

Using archival materials and interviews with former Negro League players, baseball historian Rich Westcott chronicles the catcher’s life and remarkable career in Biz Mackey, a Giant behind the Plate: The Story of the Negro League Star and Hall of Fame Catcher. He also provides an in-depth look at Philadelphia Negro League history. Westcott traces Mackey’s childhood in Texas as the son of sharecroppers to his success on the baseball diamond where he displayed extraordinary defensive skills and an exceptional ability to hit and to handle pitchers. Where to read this book: In the bleachers during a rain delay.

Intended as a guide for the everyday gardener, The Winterthur Garden Guide: Color for Every Season, by Linda Eirhart offers practical advice—season by season—for achieving the succession of bloom developed by Henry Francis du Pont in his garden. This handy book highlights the design principles that guided du Pont and introduces practical flowers, shrubs, and trees that have stood the test of time—native and non-native, common as well as unusual. Lavishly illustrated, with new color photography, this handbook features close-ups of individual plants as well as sweeping vistas throughout. Where to read this book: In your backyard, or at Winterthur (a worthwhile garden to visit!)

A compilation of a dozen of his fascinating articles showcasing the Keystone State, Pennsylvania Stories—Well Told, by William Ecenbarger, observes that in the quirky state of Pennsylvania, the town of Mauch Chunk changed its name to Jim Thorpe—even though the famous American-Indian athlete never set foot in it. He goes driving with Pennsylvania native John Updike in rural Berks County, Pennsylvania. And he highlights just what makes Pennsylvania both eccentric and great, providing a delightfully intriguing read for natives and curious outsiders alike. Where to read this book: During a road trip through the great state of Pennsylvania.

Follow the contemporary path of a historic naturalist with Travels of William Bartram Reconsidered, by Mark Dion, a contemporary artist. Commissioned for the landmark John Bartram house at Philadelphia’s Bartram’s Garden, the “Travels Reconsidered” exhibition and Dion’s 21st-century journey that produced it are evoked in this book filled with copious photographs, drawings, and texts. Combining humor and seriousness, this book beautifully documents an artistic collaboration across more than two centuries. Where to read this book: On the Schuylkill Banks.

Need more ideas? Our website features dozens of our wonderful books, from Boathouse Row, stories of the Schuykill River, and Fishing in the Delaware Valley, to guides to the area’s gardens and Fairmount Park as well as where to go take a hike. We also have books on Archeaology at the Site of the Museum of the American Revolution, Monument Lab, the Hidden City, and of course, Murals, Murals, Murals.

Happy Reading!

Political Mourning Delayed, but Not Denied

This week in North Philly Notes, Heather Pool, author of Political Mourning, writes about the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Earlier this month, for the first time ever, an American president visited Tulsa to commemorate the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

I was born in Oklahoma and was subjected to the state-mandated semester of “Oklahoma History” in the 1980s. In that class, we cursorily covered the forced removal of indigenous peoples to Indian Territory via the Trail of Tears and the evolution to statehood. That history was taught, but it was taught as history, as if the oppression suffered by indigenous people was something that happened long ago. In Oklahoma, about a third of the population are native even if they don’t have a roll number, live on a reservation, or identify with a tribe; thus, there was no way to avoid that history, even if the curriculum in no way did justice to it. And Oklahoma as a state has come to embrace its ties to native peoples; the state seal and flag prominently display symbols drawn from or referencing indigenous people, and, for years, its license plates proclaimed “Native America.” This does not mean that native peoples in Oklahoma are free from present oppression, by any means, but at least it is discussed.

But I learned next to nothing in that class (or in any history class during my public school education) about Black Oklahomans. It wasn’t until years later that I realized my hometown had probably been a Sundown Town; the silence about Black history, then, was not surprising. I didn’t learn about the Tulsa Massacre until I ran across a book about it in a public library in New York in the early 2000s. I distinctly remember pulling Riot and Remembrance off the shelf and holding my breath as I read the blurb on the back, stunned that I knew nothing about this event.

In the 2012 article version of the Triangle Fire chapter in my book, Political Mourning, I compared the massive publicity generated by the Triangle Fire with the scant publicity accorded to the Tulsa Race Massacre. Fortunately, the past several years – aided by work done by survivors of the Tulsa race massacre to remember the event in the face of a sustained official effort to forget it, the state legislature’s 2001 Race Riot Commission Report, and the massive increase in awareness about racial injustice spurred by rise of Black Lives Matter – have yielded a more honest accounting of the events that took place in the Greenwood section of Tulsa on May 31-June 1, 1921, as well as generated considerable media coverage. Biden’s visit to Tulsa can be read as an effort to educate Americans about the historical violence of white supremacy that has been silenced, obscured, or actively erased.

Death can do that; it can illuminate everyday violence that we know but don’t know. It’s why my work focuses on moments when everyday people die, and the polity pays attention. There are many moments we could attend to – young women being killed by their partners, the disproportionately young deaths of people of color of all varieties, queer youth disproportionately dying by suicide or homicide – and yet we often choose not to see or take up collective responsibility for deaths that do not receive widespread coverage or which, if we took up collective responsibility for them, would require us to make fundamental shifts in our way of life.

Moments such as the Tulsa Massacre, the Triangle Fire, Emmett Till’s lynching, or George Floyd’s death can break through the crust of sedimented privilege to see the unequally borne costs of the status quo. And the costs are so high. But the barriers to seeing are, too: particularly for people in positions of privilege, whose refusal to recognize that privilege makes it difficult for them to see how race has shaped a status quo that is better for whites than it is for non-white people. Charles Mills calls this the “epistemology of ignorance.” White people are rewarded for their cluelessness, just as I was rewarded for not asking more and better questions in that Oklahoma History classroom. White Americans’ refusal to learn our actual history when it comes to race and violence continues to obstruct our ability to build an actual democracy instead of a white one.

It is encouraging that the Tulsa Race Massacre is getting the attention, respect, and mourning it has always deserved; it is a marker of how much things have changed in the past decade that an American president spoke at the 100th anniversary of the terrible events in Tulsa. But it is also a reminder that who we mourn and how we mourn them speaks volumes about who we as a nation are, and that mourning – when linked to conceptions of collective identity and responsibility – can be deeply political. The political mourning denied the survivors of the Tulsa Massacre is being rekindled now and mobilized to call for racial justice, and that is important. But equally important is to ensure – through education, more just political institutions, and reparations – that we do our best to reduce or eliminate similar losses in the present and future, whether the sudden horror of a large-scale, state-sponsored massacre or the slow-motion violence of poverty, lack of opportunity, and incarceration that people of color continue to face disproportionately today. 

Listen Up: Temple University Press Podcast Episode 2

This week in North Philly Notes, we debut the latest episode of the Temple University Press Podcast, which features host Sam Cohn interviewing author Jim Murphy about his new book Real Philly History, Real Fast.

The Temple University Press Podcast is where you can hear about all the books you’ll want to read next.

Click here to listen

The Temple University Press Podcast is available wherever you find your podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Overcast, among other outlets.


About this episode

Jim Murphy, a certified tour guide, provides a quick and easy way to learn about Philadelphia’s heroes and historic sites in Real Philly History, Real Fast. His book provides an amusing and informative insider’s guide to the Philadelphia history you don’t know. Sure, Philadelphia is known as the home of vibrant colonial history: the Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, and Independence Hall. But the City of Brotherly Love is also home to—and less well known for—having the country’s first quarantine station, and a clock whose face is larger than Big Ben’s in London. And yes, the Rocky statue is the most photographed, but do you know whose statue comes in second? Jim Murphy’s Real Philly History, Real Fast has the answer to these burning questions—and more. This is Philly history in bites that are as digestible as a soft pretzel with mustard.

Real Philly History, Real Fast is available through the Temple University Press website, and your favorite booksellers, both online and local.

Exploring Philadelphia’s Rich History

This week in North Philly Notes, Jim Murphy, author of Real Philly History, Real Fast, explains the stories from the city’s past that intrigued him enough to write a book about them.

History is for everyone. Real Philly History, Real Fast, provides more than 50 short chapters that provide a complete story of figures, places, and events in Philadelphia history in mere minutes.

The book answers intriguing and important questions you may never have thought about. Like why did Charles Willson Peale add the second “L” to his middle name? Who stole the first book from the Library Company of Philadelphia? And where was its most famous painting found?

Or what little-known Revolutionary War hero took the fight right to Britain’s front door, terrifying its citizens and driving the British Empire’s insurance costs through the roof? How did the Acadians come to live in Philly and where did they stay? And what special skill saved black businessman James Forten (not his real name) from a life of West Indian servitude?

But wait there’s more! Real Philly History, Real Fast, answers these probing questions: What Philadelphian has over 40 towns named for him? What statue may be the second most photographed in Philly (behind Rocky, of course)? And where did the Liberty Bell receive its last crack?

Real Philly History, Real Fast will make the city feel familiar to you no matter how long you’ve lived here because it presents its history in a new light.

As an amateur general historian and certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides—as well as a constant walker and a lover of Philadelphia—I dig for information in my determination to find great stories wherever I can. I look at each story like a detective with a mystery to solve. I originally spent an average of 25-35 hours on each story in this book, researching facts, checking multiple sources, and then cutting each story down to their very essence.

Of course, no one book can cover all of Philadelphia history. There are more than 300 blue-and-gold Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission signs in Philadelphia alone, not even including the suburban counties. And while this book is geared toward center city, you will find stories on Fort Mifflin, the Lazaretto, Cliveden in Germantown and Taller Puertorriqueño in Fairhill.

One story of particular interest to me was the Mason-Dixon survey. I learned in researching the story that some nationally syndicated publications describe the vista of the Mason-Dixon line as being 3-feet wide. That’s absolutely wrong. The team, which numbered as many as 115 people, cut a vista 24-30 feet wide through dense Pennsylvania forests. Also interesting to me: that survey began on South Street in Philadelphia, a fact many Philadelphians don’t know.

Philadelphia had two superstars who jump-started this city: Penn and Ben. Or William Penn and Ben Franklin. And although they missed meeting each other by about 20 years, they helped make this the fastest growing city in the country. In 1770, Philly passed New York and Boston to become the largest, most important city in the Colonies. That growth was due to William Penn’s unique grid system, his five public squares, his well-regulated market and his ability to attract people here to his City of Brotherly Love. Penn’s attitude toward the Lenni Lenape, his system of government and his religious tolerance were all unique.

These are just a few of the tidbits you will discover in the book, which meant to whet your appetite for more Philadelphia history. As I said, there are countless stories to be told…

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