Our Faculty/Students in News

The Twin Towers still stand in our memory 18 years later

by Angus Gillespie

So here we are at the 18th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. There is the obvious question: why did the terrorists attack this particular landmark?

Today, the Twin Towers stand only in our memory, an image that calls to mind sorrow and loss. But during the years that they straddled the skyline, the towers meant many things to many people. On the most basic level, the towers could have been taken to symbolize the Manhattan skyline or the City of New York.

However, for nearly everyone at home and abroad, the Twin Towers symbolized something much large than the aesthetics of a single city. The building represented American engineering know-how. It showed America reaching for the sky. It stood for American capitalism and, with time, for America itself. Indeed, that is the reason it was chosen as a target by the terrorists. Terrorism is a weapon used by the weak against the strong. Because the terrorists were not powerful enough to destroy America, they had to destroy instead an important symbol of America.


Rutgers Course Explores How Mississippi Delta is Still Healing 64 Years After Emmett Till's Murder

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What would justice look like for Emmett Till 64 years after his death became a symbol of the U.S. civil rights movement?

Rutgers scholar Christine Zemla traveled to the Mississippi Delta to pose that question to the Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Till’s cousin and the last living eyewitness to his abduction, in preparation for her new fall course, “Remembering Emmett Till.”

“Till’s story is Trayvon Martin’s story. It’s Michael Brown’s story. It’s the continuing story of African-American boys who are still being targeted without justice served,” said Zemla, a professor in the Department of American Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “I want students to know the roots of his history, so they can have a deeper understanding of what still needs to be done.” 


Springsteen at 70: Remembering When The Boss Rocked New Brunswick

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Many people may call themselves Bruce Springsteen’s biggest fan, but Louis Masur has legitimate claim to that title.

This fall, the Distinguished Professor of American Studies and History at Rutgers–New Brunswick will share his admiration for the music icon in his course, “Springsteen's American Vision.”

Masur said the class will explore how Springsteen’s vision illustrates a generation’s fight for personal growth and political and social change. Author of "Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen's American Vision" and co-editor of "Talk About a Dream: The Essential Interviews of Bruce Springsteen," Masur reflects on how music can shape and be shaped by the political and social climate.


NJ Folk Fest Promo 2019

Old Ways in New Jersey

Interview with Professor Carla Cevasco

Interview with Professor Jimmy Sweet

Interview with Professor Maria Kennedy

Interview with Professor Michael Rockland

Interview with Professor Nicole Fleetwood

Interview with Professor Sylvia Chan-Malik

Raising a Black Boy Not to Be Afraid

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By  Nicole R. Fleetwood

One evening last spring, my son packed his backpack for school the next day and sighed. “Mom, it’s weird walking around near my school,” he said. His somber tone made me afraid of what would come next—confessions of bullying, peer pressure, or, as had been reported about the eighth-graders, witnessing kids drinking or making out near the campus.

“Why?” I asked, trying to sound calm.

“All the white people move away from me when I’m walking to school. The white women grab their bags or cross the street. The only people who say hi are black women pushing strollers with white children in them,” he said.

At the time, he was barely five feet tall and weighed under 100 pounds. He was a 12-year-old in the sixth grade at a fairly diverse but majority-white middle school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Since starting there, he had been insistent about going to school on his own, a 20-minute journey from our home in Harlem. His father and I had set up a system: one of us would track his journey to school until he sent a text message confirming arrival. I watched the little dot that represents his movement along the city grid, but what that phone app could not show was the people he encountered along the way and how they treated him.


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Black leisure travel during the Jim Crow era is an overlooked and under-researched topic. When researchers examine African American travelers during this time period, they tend to view their mobility through the lens of politics or as a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement. This is an incredibly limited view of Black mobility, and viewing African American travelers as solely political travelers means that researchers miss out on understanding their full experiences. Researchers render them heroes or martyrs rather than families and individuals, and they strip them of their joy.

pdf "Wherever We Please, and Without Embarrassment”: Black Leisure Travel During the Jim Crow Era (130 KB) examines Black leisure travel during the Jim Crow era, with a specific focus on Victor Hugo Green's The Negro Traveler's Green Book. The Green Book treated black travelers as travelers, contributing to the normalization and enjoyability of travel. This thesis emphasizes leisure over politics, as much of the research surrounding this era fails to do so. The major sources used in writing this thesis include archived versions of The Negro Motorist's Green Book from 1937 to 1964, archived editions of the NAACP's magazine The Crisis, archived issues of The Defender, and a number of secondary sources on the automobile, sundown towns, the Great Migration, leisure, segregation, and mobility. 


I stumbled across The Negro Motorist Green Book my freshman year. Junot Diaz had shared an article about the New York Public Library's acquisition of the nearly-complete run of the guidebook. I knew right then that if I ever wrote a thesis, that would be my focus.As my junior year came to a close, Professor Masur asked me if I had any subject in mind for an honors thesis. I immediately remembered The Green Book. Holding a facsimile of the guidebook in my hands this year, I finally realized that this was more than a year-long writing project. The book that I held in my hands had literally saved lives, and I wanted to do it justice in my writing. For the better part of a year, I poured over The Crisis, The Chicago Defender, The Green Book itself, and sources concerning black leisure travel, segregation, the automobile, and sundown towns. I am so incredibly proud of what I've done this year.


Old Ways in NJ States of Incarceration

Angus Kress Gillespie speaks with Andrew Urban about the "States of Incarceration" exhibit at the Douglas Library at Rutgers University.

New Jersey Connection to Japanese Internment Explored in Rutgers Exhibit

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During World War II, 2,500 Japanese Americans, deemed a threat to national security and incarcerated by the government because of their race, came to a small town in South Jersey for a chance at freedom.

They entered a work-release program that offered low- paying jobs at Seabrook Farms, a pioneering business in Cumberland County that produced frozen vegetables. But they still found themselves bound by what one worker called “invisible restraints.” They had no option to leave, put in long hours and paid most of their salary back to the company to cover food and housing costs.

Their story, a little-known chapter in New Jersey history, has been brought to light by a group of students at Rutgers University-New Brunswick as part of a national traveling exhibit called States of Incarceration. The goal of the exhibit, on display at the Douglass Library, is to start a dialogue to bring about change...


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How Can Images Tell the Story of Mass Incarceration in the US?

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Most prisons and jails across the United States do not allow prisoners to have access to cameras. At a moment when 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the US, 3.8 million people are on probation, and 870,000 former prisoners are on parole, how can images tell the story of mass incarceration when the imprisoned don’t have control over their own representation? How can photographs visualize a reality that disproportionately affects people of color, and, for many, remains outside of view?

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