Dr. Teresa Davis is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Transnational Latin American History in the History Department. She completed graduate school at Princeton University, where she was a colleague of historian Xiyue Wang. Wang was imprisoned in Iran in 2016 while conducting archival research on nineteenth-century nomadic populations of contemporary Central Asia, Russia, Iran, western China and Mongolia. Davis wrote a piece in The Washington Post arguing for increased attention to his research and imprisonment. Read an excerpt below along with the full piece, “Iran has imprisoned a historian for three years. Here’s why his research matters.”
“We should all work tirelessly for Wang’s release. There is no zero-sum equation between fighting to free an innocent researcher in an Iranian prison and advocating for productive diplomatic relations with Iran. Indeed, if diplomacy and sanity are to succeed, we will need to protect the work of researchers such as Wang, who systematically challenge the idea of a foundational clash between East and West, Islam and Christianity, or “backward” and “modern” forms of political organization. To support Wang is to cast our lot in favor of historical nuance and humanity against the hard-liners — both abroad and in our midst.”
Dr. Jeffrey Lesser contributed to a July 30 article in Al Jazeera about a prison massacre in the Brazilian state of Pará that left 57 inmates dead. Lesser is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History and Director of the Halle Institute for Global Research. Read his quote from the article below along with the full piece: “Scores killed in Brazil prison riot; 16 decapitated.”
“The prisons themselves are the opposite of rehabilitation. They are taking young people and making them into hardened criminals and that is in part because Brazil has in some ways an extremely weak state and because the state is weak, the criminal gangs expand.” – Jeffrey Lesser
SaportaReport recently featured two new books about black youth experiences in the justice system published by History Department Assistant Professor Carl Suddler and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, respectively. Managing Editor David Pendered wrote the piece, titled “Justice for black youths, reparations in Atlanta’s conversations this summer.” Pendered discusses Suddler’s Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York, which was published by NYU press last month. Suddler offers a reading of Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys, which was also published last month. Whitehead recently presented at the Atlanta History Center. Read the full piece in SaportaReport here.
Incoming Assistant Professor of History Carl Suddler recently contributed to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Yusef Salaam of Central Park Five: ‘Born with a target on our backs.'” Shelia Poole wrote the piece, which centers on Yusuf Salaam, one of the so-called Central Park Five. Read the excerpt that quotes Dr. Suddler below as well as the full article.
“I think when we see these cases, especially wrongful convictions, it does kind of beg the question just how many of these cases have happened over time,” said Carl Suddler, author of “Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York” and professor of history, who will join the faculty at Emory University this fall. “In the United States, we do not have a justice system, we have a legal system. We have a system that followed the letter of the law, not necessarily fairness.”
Two History Department faculty have won 2019 Georgia Author of the Year awards. Dr. Joseph Crespino, Chair and Jimmy Carter Professor of History, won in the history category for his Atticus Finch: The Biography (Basic Books). The publisher describes Atticus Finch as charting
how Harper Lee’s father provided the central inspiration for each of her books. A lawyer and newspaperman, A. C. Lee was a principled opponent of mob rule, yet he was also a racial paternalist. Harper Lee created the Atticus of Watchman out of the ambivalence she felt toward white southerners like him. But when a militant segregationist movement arose that mocked his values, she revised the character in To Kill a Mockingbird to defend her father and to remind the South of its best traditions. A story of family and literature amid the upheavals of the twentieth century, Atticus Finch is essential to understanding Harper Lee, her novels, and her times.
Associated Faculty in History Ruby Lal, whose primary appointment is as Professor of South Asian Studies in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, received the Author of the Year award in the biography category. Lal’s Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan chronicles the life of a seventeenth-century empress who “wielded unprecedented power, strategizing with senior counselors, minting currency, addressing the public, shooting tigers, and designing clothing and architecture.” The book was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Assistant Professor Carl Suddler recently wrote a piece in The Washington Post commenting on the Netflix miniseries “When They See Us,” which chronicles the story of five teenagers — the so-called Central Park Five — forced to confess to a rape they did not commit in 1989. Suddler is the author of Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York, to be published by NYU press in July of 2019. Read the full piece, “How the Central Park Five expose the fundamental injustice in our legal system,” along with the excerpt below.
“When They See Us” sheds new light on this old tale and aims to create change. DuVernay’s miniseries joins the decades-long efforts by activists to humanize the Central Park Five beyond the numeric moniker. It also, perhaps most notably, has inspired the next generation of social justice activists committed to working to overturn wrongful convictions and to reigniting mainstream discussions about criminal injustices in America’s legal system, in the hope of achieving an overhaul of the system.
Dr. Kylie M. Smith is Assistant Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellow for Nursing and the Humanities. In the spring of 2019, Smith taught a freshman seminar in History entitled “Madness in America: A History from Lunancy to Mass Incarceration.” The Emory School of Nursing just published an insightful profile of Smith’s research and teaching: “A Different Set of Tools: Using the humanities to understand nursing’s role in social justice.” Read the full profile and see the description of the course below.
History 190: “Madness in America: A History from Lunancy to Mass Incarceration”
In this course we will explore the history of approaches to mental illness in the US, and consider the impact of this history for current issues in mental health. Topic areas include the culture of asylums, slavery and psychiatry, changing definitions and treatment practices, depictions of madness in popular culture, Civil Rights and patient rights, and trauma, war and the role of psychiatry in social control. We will visit the archives to explore journalist’s exposes and medical records as we attempt to uncover hidden histories of shame and stigma. We will seek to understand the experience and construction of “the patient” through the intersection of culture, politics and law, and ask critical questions about the nature of mental illness itself. Our goal in this course is to understand how historical attitudes shaped the development of policy and services, and how this impacts those with mental illness today. In this process we will explore the ethics of confinement of the mentally ill and analyze the troubled relationship between mental illness and criminality.