Drew Gilpin Faust is President Emerita and Lincoln Professor of History at Harvard. She is the author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, among other books. (October 2018)
Song in a Weary Throat: Memoir of an American Pilgrimage
by Pauli Murray, with an introduction by Patricia Bell-Scott
Since Pauli Murray’s autobiography, Song in a Weary Throat, first appeared in 1987, changing realities—the election of a black president and the major-party presidential candidacy of a woman, the shocking violence of Ferguson, Charleston, and Charlottesville, the tragic deaths of young black men like Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, the emerging struggle over transgender rights from gender-neutral bathrooms to the military—have challenged us to look anew at the issues of race, gender, and sexuality that defined Murray’s life.
Many Americans in 2015 seem to be undertaking an unprecedentedly clear-eyed look at the nation’s past, at the legacy of slavery and race that has made us anything but a colorblind society. There could be no more fitting tribute to John Hope Franklin’s one hundredth birthday than this collective stock-taking, for no one has done more to delineate the contours of that shameful legacy and to insist upon its importance to America’s present and future.
Since the middle of the twentieth century, our understanding of the American past has been revolutionized, in no small part because of our altered conceptions of the place of race in the nation’s history. And that revolution has taken place largely because of a remarkable generation of historians who, inspired by the changing meanings of freedom and justice in their own time, began to ask new questions about the origins of the racial inequality that continued to permeate our segregated society nearly a century after slavery’s end.