This month sees the UK cinema release of Steve McQueen’s brilliant and brutal new film, 12 Years a Slave. McQueen has been vocal in condemning cinema’s wariness in confronting the subjects of slavery and race, and his film has galvanized a new interest in the unspeakably ugly period in American history.
Based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 documentary, 12 Years a Slave takes an unflinching look at the story of a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery.
Verso has long held a commitment to telling similar stories, and we now present a selection of books as the essential starting point for those looking to learn more about the roots, events and legacies of slavery and racial tensions in America and the world.
Since Michael Brown died at the hands of police officer Darren Wilson, the protests in Ferguson have shone a light on major issues of today: militarization, Gaza, the police state, and the myth of post-racial America. In the media, a battle to control the narrative has shadowed the turmoil on the streets, as sources of news and opinion vie to dominate discussion. The debate develops by the hour, but the essential facts remain unchanged: Michael Brown was an unarmed African-American. In his murder are echoes of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Renisha McBride, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, and many more.
In response to the 1992 LA Uprising, the late scholar Manning Marable wrote: “Ultimately, the choice of ‘violence or nonviolence’ is not ours, but white America’s. Those who make peaceful change and democratic advancement impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”
Marable's essay, “African-American Empowerment in the Face of Racism: The Political Aftermath of the Battle of Los Angeles,” originally published in Beyond Black and White: Transforming African-American Politics, resonates with the Ferguson protests and their popular conception as a riots rather than acts of resistance. With the hope of giving perspective to current events, we bring you Marable’s essay in full.