The Element of Surprise

By Pamela Lewis, author of Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City (forthcoming in March 2016)

It’s a few days after Christmas. Videos of children frenziedly shucking wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes for the gifts held inside fill my Facebook and Instagram feed with intentions to warm hearts and elicit joy. My heart yields to the endearing spectacles of cuteness overload, temporarily anesthetizing the nagging ache in my soul that subsides only in moments like this. Just yesterday, after having had a few days to nurse the feeling almost away, as I had chosen to not spend my well-deserved teacher holiday break thinking about the many instances that would cause such a flare up, it was back at it again. Tamir Rice’s killer would not be indicted. I knew I shouldn’t have been surprised, but with all the media attention, the protests, somehow I had been fooled into believing in a different outcome. Beautifully wrapped presents can be deceiving. I had been expecting something sparkly, but unwrapped dirt-tasting chewing gum instead.

Annoyed that I had been forced to confront our nation’s ugliest scar during the most wonderful time of the year, I took to Facebook to bask in some holiday cheer, and as I already reported, the beauty of innocent children prevailed, and my heartache waned temporarily. Until—yep, there had to be an “until.” Until, I watched a video of two adorable little white girls unwrapping gifts from “Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia,” as their mother stated on the video. All hope of something sparkly gone at the sight of two brown baby doll faces staring back at them. The older girl, first genuinely confused, then, obviously irritated at the thought of a black doll as a gift. Showing the gift to her mother, she tilts her little head, giving her mom a face as if to say, “Seriously, mom?” When her mom continues with a straight face, she immediately puts on her big girl britches and feigns gratitude, though her disgust makes her portrayal hardly believable. Her baby sister on the other hand, makes no qualms about her repulsion. She begins to cry white tears of self-pity, which soon become fury, rejecting the doll all together by throwing it back into the bag. Included in this video are the sounds of their mother’s guffaws, suggesting that despite Uncle Seth’s and Aunt Cynthia’s attempt toward teaching tolerance, she would use their gift as a gag, a trick: dirt-tasting chewing gum. Her decision to film their reaction, indicative of her expectation of let down, spoke volumes as to what she taught and didn’t teach her children; her choice to laugh rather than to use their response as a teachable moment toward tolerance and inclusion suggestive of her own belief in white supremacy. It seemed Uncle Seth and Aunt Cynthia were well aware of their sister’s archaic ideologies, and decided to confront it, once and for all.

It had only been the second time I had ever even heard of a white person giving a black doll to a white little girl, yet within that same hour, I’d spotted in my news feed several white dolls under trees inside the homes of black families. The first time I heard of a white person doing something so “ridiculous” was in a story that my former co-teacher had shared. As she recalled, her mother bought one of her fellow white classmates a black doll for her birthday.

“What happened when you gave your friend the doll at her party?” I asked, eager to know their reaction.“They laughed,” she recalled, smoothing her hair, and chuckling a bit herself. “They laughed.”

Choosing blackness was laughable to white folk. Meanwhile, we chose whiteness: dolls for our kids, weave for our heads, contacts for our eyes, bleach for our skin, all of the time. Though my co-teacher never understood her mother’s purpose for buying a black doll, she, like Aunt Cynthia and Uncle Seth, whether intentionally or not, forced my co-teacher’s classmates to confront the truth about themselves, and the world we live in; gift-giving has that ability.

Still bummed about the video and the lack of indictment, I turned off the television and logged off of Facebook, immersing myself in long abandoned household chores. The pile of mail that was busting the seams of the bin that contained it was calling my name. A parcel with maroon Fordham University letterhead arrived. I feverishly ripped through the envelope, anxious to see what was inside. I knew the Fordham Press Spring 2016 catalog was due, and I had been informed that my book would be the lead title. I oohed and ahhed at the cover art of the catalog, which gleamed with images of twinkling lights. I flipped open my sparkly gift and there my book was on the very first page, the image I had posed for, my face out of view, just my more casual than business tee-shirt and blazer combination, and the two dolls that my brown hands held up toward the reader. One can faintly make out the name Phyllis on my shirt, the first on the list of names of black women writers paid homage to in one hundred percent cotton. Identical in everything but color, and positioning, the dolls stared back at the reader, my take on the Clark Doll Experiment of 1939. Instead of putting the dolls at equal distances from the reader, however, the doll is thrust toward the reader’s gaze, forcing the reader to focus on her, leaving the white doll behind, the camera lens intentionally leaving the latter a blur. The words, “Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City” and my name in bold white letters. I knew the catalog had been sent to others. I imagined their surprise.

This is a special time that we live in, one in which historical moments are being born, deep emotions are felt, and tragic possibilities are imaginable all within surprising moments of hope. In many ways, we are still held down by a horrid history, trapped in white supremacist thinking. Yet, we can always find comfort in knowing that there will always be those who seek to confront ugly truths, to challenge tradition, and who fight every day to shed this awful legacy of injustice. We are not alone. Rest in Power, Tamir.

Pamela Lewis is a teacher in the New York City Department of Education.

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To pre-order:
Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City

ISBN: 978-0823271412, paper, $19.95
eBook available
#ReadUP

 

 

By Pamela Lewis, author of Teaching While Black: A New Voice on Race and Education in New York City (forthcoming in March 2016) It’s a few days after Christmas. Videos of children frenziedly shucking wrapping paper, ribbon and boxes for … Full Story

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Fordham professors write your books, right?

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What is the future of academic publishing? We’re celebrating University Press Week (8-14 November 2015) and Academic Book Week (9-16 November) with a series of blog posts on scholarly publishing from staff and partner presses. Today, Kate O’Brien-Nicholson of Fordham University Press discusses one of the great misconceptions about university press publishing.

By KATE O’BRIEN-NICHOLSON
OUPBlog | posted on November 13, 2015

What is the future of academic publishing? We’re celebrating University Press Week (8-14 November 2015) and Academic Book Week (9-16 November) with a series of blog posts on scholarly publishing from staff and partner presses. Today, Kate O’Brien-Nicholson of Fordham University Press discusses one of the great misconceptions about university press publishing.

“Fordham professors write your books, right?” This is often less a question than an assumption and probably the biggest misconception about not just our, but all, university presses.

Most people have heard the phrase “publish or perish”. They seem to visualize professors endlessly researching, churning out manuscripts, and ultimately presenting them to “their” presses for publication. Fordham professors do research and produce some wonderful books but more often than not they are published by other presses. This is the case for all legitimate university presses.

Our mission is to further the values and traditions of Fordham University through the dissemination of scholarly research and ideas. These ideas can and do come in from some interesting sources.

Take Cool: How Air Conditioning Changed Everything, one of our newer titles that is enjoying global success. Author Sal Basile is a longtime professional musician and singer with the St. Patrick’s cathedral choir. Medical doctor, Michael Good, was so passionate about relatively unknown German wartime hero, Karl Plagge, that he took on The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews. Basile made the transition from music to wider social commentary; Good opened files that had been untouched for over fifty years and spent several years interviewing survivors, demonstrating that great scholars can come from unlikely places.

One of the more familiar places for us is of course New York City, and many overlook the outstanding regional histories that university presses from New York to Hawaii publish. Whether it’s abandoned islands or the synagogues of the Lower East Side, we’ve been able to draw on the skills of not only local historians, but also professional photographers to record and present the city. Great works of scholarship can also look good on a coffee table.

And to be sure, we don’t discriminate against professors from other universities. This season, one of our featured titles is Who Can Afford to Improvise? James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listeners, an insightful meditation on black music and culture and James Baldwin’s centrality to black music and culture. Author, Ed Pavlić, is a professor of English and Creative Writing at University of Georgia.

Our authors come from inside and outside of academia – all over the world. Although we are extremely proud of the books that originate from within the Fordham community, there is no Fordham-biased nepotism in our offices. If your ideas have merit and your research is legitimate we want to talk about your book.

Photo by Sara Levine for Oxford University Press.

Kate O’Brien-Nicholson is Marketing Director for Fordham University Press. Fordham University Press is distributed in North America by Oxford University Press USA and over 300 Fordham University Press books in subjects across the humanities, sciences, and social sciences are available on Fordham Scholarship Online.

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This year marks the fourth annual celebration of University Press Week, coordinated by the American Association of University Presses. For more great content during University Press Week, follow the tour with this schedule or the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

And don’t forget to check out today’s tour stops for #PublishUP: Presses Conversation with Authors at:

Temple University Press: Q&A with Unsettled Author Eric Tang

Columbia University Press: The Russian Library: An Interview with Christine Dunbar

University of Virginia Press: A Talk with the Poets

Beacon Press: In Conversation with Jeanne Theoharis

University of Illinois Press: Q&A with Feminist Media Studies Series Editor Carol Stabile

Southern Illinois University Press: An Interview with Guy Hasegawa

University Press of Kansas: In Conversation with Lisa Silvestri, Author of “Friended at the Front”

Oregon State University Press

Liverpool University Press: Jon Hogg Talks Using Primary Sources

University of Toronto Press Journals: Q&A with Two IJFAB Authors on “Just Food”

Manchester University Press: Oonagh McDonald Reflects on Ben Bernanke and Wall Street Executives

#ReadUP  #UPshelfie  #UPWeek

University Press Week

What is the future of academic publishing? We’re celebrating University Press Week (8-14 November 2015) and Academic Book Week (9-16 November) with a series of blog posts on scholarly publishing from staff and partner presses. Today, Kate O’Brien-Nicholson of Fordham University Press discusses one … Full Story

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What Might Have Been. . . A Trip Through NYC’s Unbuilt Subway System

By Joseph B. Raskin, author of The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City’s Unbuilt Subway System

Service on the first route of the New York City Subway system began on October 27, 1904. The occasion was marked by ceremonies in City Hall, led by George B. McClellan and representatives of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), the operators of that line. Mayor McClellan saw the opening of the subway as the beginning of a new era for the greater city.

“We have met here today for the purpose of turning over a page in the history of our city; for the purpose of marking the advent of a new epoch in her development. If this new underground railroad which we are about to open proves as popular and as successful as I confidently expect it to be it will only be the first of many more which must ultimately result in giving us an almost perfect system of inter borough communication.”
 
“When that day arrives, borough boundaries will be remembered only for administrative purposes, and New Yorkers, forgetting from what part of the city they come and only conscious of the fact that they are the sons of the mightiest metropolis if the world has ever seen, will be activated by a common hope and united in a common destiny” (The New York Times, October 28, 1904).

Mayor McClellan operated the train that left the City Hall Station (no longer in use; the New York Transit Museum sometimes does a tour of the station) at 2:35 p.m., enjoying the trip, although he complained about the posting of advertising in the stations. It arrived at the northern terminal at 145th Street and Broadway at 3:01 p.m. The subway was opened to the public, and by 127,381 riders had made use of the subway by midnight.

Before the end of 1904, the subway extended further to the north in Manhattan and into the Bronx; in less than a year, it extended south to the Battery. Work was underway to construct a link to Brooklyn.

A photograph published in the Brooklyn Eagle on January 20, 1916. It shows a ramp built from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Chambers Street Station on the Brooklyn Rapid Transit’s Nassau Street Line (served today by the J and Z lines) that would have allowed BRT elevated lines that ran on the bridge to connect with the Nassau Street Line. This ramp was never put into use.

This was only the start of the construction of New York’s subway system. By 1920, that one line became all or parts of three routes, the Lexington-4th Avenue, Broadway-7th Avenue and 42nd Street Shuttle lines. Those lines were part of the first major rapid transit capital program, the Dual System Contracts. Many of the lines operated by the IRT and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (BRT, later the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation, the BMT). The Dual System Contracts were followed in the 1920s and beyond by the second capital program, which led to the opening of the Independent City-Owned Subway System (IND). The most recent extension of the subway system, the extension of the No. 7 line from Times Square to 34th Street-Hudson Yards, began service on September 13, 2015. The next extension, the opening of the first phase of the 2nd Avenue between 63rd and 96th Streets, is currently scheduled to open in December of 2016.

And yet, the subway system could have been even bigger. Numerous plans have been made to extend the subway system, dating back to before the completion of the first subway line. The westward extension of the No. 7 line was first proposed in the 1920s as part of a much longer line that would have extended into New Jersey. Earlier this year, Mayor Bill DeBlasio asked that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority study the feasibility of building a subway line along Utica Avenue in Brooklyn; that line was first proposed more than a century ago.

The most famous of these plans were those for the second phase of the IND, which were made public in September of 1929. The IND lines that were built (the 6th and 8th Avenue lines in Manhattan, the Fulton Street, Crosstown and Smith Street lines in Brooklyn, the Queens Boulevard line in Queens and the Concourse line in the Bronx) allowed for connections to be made with lines to be built in the second phase. This is seen at the 2nd Avenue and East Broadway Stations on the F line, the Roosevelt Avenue-Jackson Heights Station on the E, F, M and R lines, the Utica Avenue Station on the A and C lines, the Broadway Station on the G line.

Some tunnel segments built for these connections were eventually put into use. As examples, the E line runs through a tunnel between the Briarwood-Van Wyck Boulevard and Jamaica-Van Wyck Stations partially built in the 1930s in anticipation of an extension that a line that would have run along what was then Van Wyck Boulevard. D line trains use a tunnel east of the 205th Street Station built as part of a planned extension into the Northeast Bronx to turn around for their trips back towards Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Even older connections were planned for and room was made for lines that were never built. The Nevins Street and Utica Avenue IRT stations in Brooklyn were built in anticipation of connections with unbuilt lines. The Chambers Street Station on the J and Z lines was built in anticipation of a connection with elevated lines that once ran over the Brooklyn Bridge. The 4th Avenue line in Brooklyn was built to allow for connections with a line that would have been built to Staten Island.

The reasons for these lines never having been built have varied. Budgetary issues have long impacted the ability of operating agencies to maintain, operate and expand the transit system. The release of the 1929 plan coincided with the stock market crash that fueled the Great Depression. The New York City financial crisis of the 1970s impacted the 1968 “New Routes” plan.

Political factors have affected plans to expand the system as well. The line that we now know as the G line, the Brooklyn-Queens line, whose first segment opened in 1933, was originally proposed as an elevated line close to 60 years earlier. That line was stopped by the residents and businesspeople in what is now Bedford-Stuyvesant and Williamsburg who opposed an elevated line being built along their streets. A similar proposal made in 1912-13 was stopped for the same reason. At the same time, a proposed subway line along Utica and Stuyvesant Avenues through those neighborhoods was blocked by Stuyvesant Avenue residents who opposed an underground line being built along their street.

The 2nd Avenue Station on the F Line in Manhattan. The station was built to be a transfer point between this line and the 2nd Avenue line, as planned in the 1930s, running above this platform. The middle tracks were planned to run eastward, providing service to sections of Brooklyn and Queens. Some of the neighborhoods that this line would have served do not have subway service to this day.

Mayor McClellan’s vision of the growth of the city was already coming true as service was beginning on the first subway line. The subways accelerated the growth and expansion of the city’s population and employment centers that began with the construction of the first elevated railroads in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The subways and elevated lines extended out through farmland and undeveloped regions far away from the downtown areas of each borough. Rural areas in the city were now well within reach. Real estate developers and the population would follow.

The developers obtained, divided, marketed and sold tracts of land on the basis that the subway expansion programs were coming their way. People bought property based on that hope. Largely rural areas like Washington Heights, Flatbush and Flushing became urbanized communities. Street grids extended outwards; villages grew and became larger communities. The extension of the No. 7 line to Hudson Yards was proposed to make that area more accessible; it is a major factor in the major development in that area.

The subway system could have extended ever further over the years that followed the opening of the first subway line 111 years ago (I write about those opportunities in my book, The Routes Not Taken). But the system is still growing. Even now, the opening of a subway line is viewed as being a positive step towards the growth and development of New York City as a whole.

Joseph B. Raskin is an independent scholar. He is widely regarded as an authority on unbuilt subway systems, on which he has been interviewed by the New York Times. He recently retired as Assistant Director of Government and Community Relations for MTA New York City Transit.

Visit Joseph Raskin’s Tumblr page.

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This year marks the fourth annual celebration of University Press Week, coordinated by the American Association of University Presses.  For more great content during University Press Week, follow the tour with this schedule or the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

And don’t forget to check out today’s tour stops for #TBT (Throwback Thursday) at:

Project MUSE

University of Minnesota Press

University of Chicago Press

University of Manitoba Press

University of Washington Press

Duke University Press

University of Texas Press

University of Michigan Press

University Press of Kansas

Minnesota Historical Society Press

University of California Press

University of Toronto Press Journals

#ReadUP         #UPshelfie          #UPWeek

 www.UniversityPressWeek.org

By Joseph B. Raskin, author of The Routes Not Taken: A Trip Through New York City’s Unbuilt Subway System Service on the first route of the New York City Subway system began on October 27, 1904. The occasion was marked by … Full Story

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Measuring Our Success: The Value of Our Work

Recently, four University Press Directors, including FUP Director, Fredric Nachbaur, were asked by the Choice Magazine to share their perspective on the University Press enterprise. Read the full article here.

Recently, four University Press Directors, including FUP Director, Fredric Nachbaur, were asked by the Choice Magazine to share their perspective on the University Press enterprise. Read the full article here.

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Interview with Tom Glynn, author of Reading Publics

The Author’s Corner with Tom Glynn

Tom Glynn is Anglo-American History and Political Science Selector in the Alexander Library at Rutgers University Libraries. This interview is based on his new book, Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries, 1754-1911 (Fordham University Press, January 2015).

JF: What led you to write Reading Publics?

TG: I came to the history of American libraries by way of American labor history. My first article was on the Apprentices’ Library of the City of New York. That led to research on other libraries in the city in the nineteenth century and prompted me to explore what they held in common, what goals and values the Apprentices’ Library shared with, for example, the Mercantile Library Association, a library for young clerks. The book really began to take shape when I started to think about the contemporary use of the term public library to refer to these privately funded, privately managed institutions.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Reading Publics?

TG: The early history of public libraries in New York City is an important part of the social and cultural history of the United States, revealing critical shifts in how Americans defined the public, the public good, and public institutions. It is also an important part of the history of books and reading, shedding light on the relationship between the market and culture, the reception of popular fiction, and class and gender in the construction of the reader.JF: Why do we need to read Reading Publics?

TG: Histories of public libraries in the United States omit or gloss over the fact that the meaning of the term changed over time, that public library meant something quite different to a reader in 1754 than to a reader in 1911. Reading my book you will appreciate the shifts from the eighteenth to the twentieth century in how Americans defined and what they expected of public institutions and what was valued as a public good. You will also learn about the history of books and reading in America and how class, gender and the market shaped the construction of the reader. Reading Publics addresses the need to place the development of public libraries within the larger context of American social and cultural history. But it is also a New York story, an accessible, interesting narrative of a little-know aspect of the city’s past. It was written not just for scholars, but for anyone interested in history, books, and libraries.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

TG: I became a librarian before I became an historian. After I started my first job in an academic library, I joined a Ph.D. program, in part for the challenge and in part to be a better librarian. Later I wrote a book on the history of early public libraries in New York City for essentially the same reasons.

JF: What is your next project?

TG: I’m not sure. I’m very interested in the history of reading and also in detective fiction in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It would be fun to find something that combines those interests.

JF: Sounds good, thanks Tom!

Posted Thursday, February 12, 2015 by John Fea at  The Author’s Corner 

The Author’s Corner with Tom Glynn Tom Glynn is Anglo-American History and Political Science Selector in the Alexander Library at Rutgers University Libraries. This interview is based on his new book, Reading Publics: New York City’s Public Libraries, 1754-1911 (Fordham University Press, January 2015). JF: What … Full Story

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