Friday, November 7, 2008

American Pogrom Author Speaks at SIUE

Today, Professor Charles L. Lumpkins spoke here at SIUE about his new book American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics. The event was co-sponsored by SIUE’s Institute for Urban Research (IUR), the department of Historical Studies, and the Black Studies Program.

Professor Lumpkins’ talk earlier today traced key points from his book about the build-up and aftermath of the East St. Louis riot in 1917. His observations about the progressive and problematic political organizing from back in the day, so to speak as well as his documentation of the racist treatment endured by African Americans were quite fascinating.

His presentation also showcased newspaper clippings from the era, which really illuminated the historical information. The clippings offered a more vivid display of how the press participated in shaping negative perceptions and hostility toward African Americans.

Given my own interest in literary art and language, I was especially intrigued by Lumpkins’ use of the phrase “American pogrom” instead of “race riot” to describe the events.

The term pogrom refers to deliberate, violent assaults on a distinct group, and as Lumpkins explained, the acts of violence committed against black people that July in East St. Louis were far more organized than the term “riot” suggests. “Evidence shows,” Lumpkins noted, “that factions did plan this, did target [black] folks.”

Interestingly, referring to the events as a planned and concerted effort as opposed to a spontaneous riot clarifies the brutal and calculated nature of what happened.

American Pogrom is certainly worth our consideration.

Andrew Theising, who directs the IUR, served as one of the prime movers and shakers for the series of events relating to Professor Lumpkins’ visit here and at Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis over the last couple of days. Actually, Prof. Theising often initiates or contributes to these bi-state educational opportunities. We'll keep you posted on future events.

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