cover image We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance

We Refuse: A Forceful History of Black Resistance

Kellie Carter Jackson. Seal, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-5416-0290-8

Black people have resisted white supremacy with many strategies other than nonviolent civil disobedience, yet these methods are chronically understudied, according to this enthralling account. Carter Jackson (Force and Freedom), professor of Africana studies at Wellesley College, delves into a fascinating array of histories that highlight the ingeniousness, efficacy, and relatability of Black political maneuvering across several centuries of oppression. Her narrative includes moments when Black revolutionaries have gone on violent offensives, but she also emphasizes how, far more routinely, Black people have armed themselves for protection and defensive shows of force (Rosa Parks’s kitchen table was “covered with guns” during political meetings; in the 19th century, Black women defended their families against slave catchers with “shovels and washboards”). Also explored are how prominent a role “refusal” has played in Black political resistance (Jackson shrewdly reframes the Great Migration as a widespread political, rather than purely economic, opting-out of the Jim Crow South); and how essential “joy” has been to Black strategizing against white power (during slavery, secret late-night dance parties were commonplace rebellions against white surveillance). By astutely delineating how Black resistance strategies have always existed on a spectrum between the binary of nonviolence vs. violence, Carter Jackson demolishes an unnecessarily rigid distinction. The result is an invigorating paradigm shift. (June)