2020 gave us all a lot to think about. The death of George Floyd in May led millions of Americans to march in the streets to protest continuing and unpunished cases of violence against African Americans, Indigenous people, and people of color, often at the hands of those sworn to protect them. Many in the United States viewed the deaths of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, to name but the most publicized incidents of racialized violence, as isolated incidents. But as historians, we know that the anti-black racism and racialized violence have been, and horrifyingly remain, integral parts of US history and American life. The grassroots and peaceful protests—the sudden welling up of “Enough!”—are born out of the historical moment, marked by a global pandemic, political instability, and a surge of white supremacy, but they are also in response to a much longer history.
In response to this turbulent and chaotic summer, JGAPE’s Editorial Board struck a working group to consider how we as historians, and JGAPE as an academic journal, could best contribute to the larger goals of social justice and equality during these unprecedented times. Journals do not march, at least not in the streets. But journals do demonstrate, if on pages, not pavement. Peer-reviewed historical scholarship can document the origins of today’s racial violence by tracing its roots firmly to historical developments in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. The working group tasked the co-editors of the journal with making the historical resources of the journal available to readers and teachers. We, in turn, asked a talented group of emerging scholars to pull together historical works from our journal’s archives and the archives of other historical journals into reading lists and short syllabi for anyone who wants to learn about, think about, and teach the histories of racial violence and resistance to it.
We here present five microsyllabi that bring together articles from JGAPE and other journals that consider the history of racial violence in the United States. As other scholars write microsyllabi, we will publish them here as well and eventually compile them together in the journal. We encourage emerging scholars, especially graduate students, to contact us with their ideas for similar microsyllabi.