There are myths that persist about the Midwest: that it’s just a “naturally” white space, that Black folks haven’t lived here that long, that it doesn’t have the same histories of slavery, racism, and violence as the South. Last week, in the wake of police violence and white vigilantism in Kenosha, Smithsonian Magazine published an article debunking these misconceptions, titled “How the Myth of a Liberal North Erases a Long History of White Violence.”
For today’s show, Ali Muldrow hosts the article’s co-authors, historians Christy Clark-Pujara and Anna-Lisa Cox, for a discussion about racism in the Midwest and coming to terms with our history. They cover topics like the origins of systemic racism in Wisconsin, erasure of Black histories from the Midwest, slavery and modern policing, and the serious problems with romanticizing the past.
Christy Clark-Pujara is an assistant professor of history in the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She is the author of Dark Work: The Business of Slavery in Rhode Island (NYU Press, 2016) and her current book project is From Slavery to Suffrage: Black on the Wisconsin Frontier, 1740 to 1866.
Anna-Lisa Cox is a historian who specializes in the history of racism and race relations in nineteenth-century America. She is a non-resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. Her most recent book is The Bone and Sinew of the Land: America’s Forgotten Black Pioneers and the Struggle for Equality (PublicAffairs, 2018).
Cover photo: “Waukesha, Wis. / lith. & published by Kurz & Seifert, Milwaukee ; drawn after nature by L. Kurz” from the Library of Congress