St. Louis native and opera star Grace Bumbry in 1965 (Getty Images)
Issue 50, Winter 2024

Black History Month 2024 Essays, reviews, and reflections that celebrate African American life and legacies

Jackie Robinson, Baseball Hero, Liberal or Conservative?

Robinson’s Republicanism, coupled with the fact that he was a high-performance athlete who believed in objective measures of merit and the validity of competition, explain why he hated the idea of lowering standards for Blacks. In this regard he is not different from Wynton Marsalis, Albert Murray, Ralph Ellison, and the late Stanley Crouch.

Requiem for an Unwritten Memoir

Opera aficionados and many St. Louisans already knew about her. Somehow, I did not. Being in Bumbry’s presence magnified my own desires to pursue the creative arts, travel the globe, and know more than one language. Very much like another famous St. Louisan Josephine Baker, Grace Bumbry’s life and story shattered the limitations of what is possible for Black Americans.

The Black Women of Gee’s Bend Work Hard and Easy

Mothers sewed these quilts when everyone else was asleep, so there was no time to fuss over the details. For batting, they beat the dirt out of trash cotton or swept the floor of the cotton gin. Quilts were women’s work, therefore practical and unquestioned. How were these women to know, tucked into a paper-clip curve of the Alabama River with scant access to the rest of the world, that their quilts echoed the best and most daring modern art?

Class, Race, and the Formation of Urban Black Communities

Three rich histories give us the lived experiences of persons negotiating a racialized class system. These new narratives are instructive because Black Americans, despite class being violently raced in the United States, have had robust internal conversations within their own walls about what life as men and women, entrepreneurs, professionals, and essential workers mean in democratic conversation one to another.