“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me ... When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
— Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Until recently, W. E. B. Du Bois was written out of sociology texts. Despite his groundbreaking scholarship in that field, he was regarded by the mainstream academy as a black intellectual teaching and writing at a time when African Americans were deemed second-class citizens at best. He was marginalized, with his ideas instead credited to white academics. Unfortunately, the omission of Du Bois is not an anomaly. Northwestern research reveals how certain individuals and groups have been excluded from our literature — and classrooms — for decades because of their race, gender, ethnicity, or economic status. This absence has deprived our nation of vital role models and resulted in an incomplete, skewed version of American history. Today, a new generation of academics, including some from the very groups that have been marginalized, are committed to ameliorating this injustice. At Northwestern, the work of John Alba Cutler, English, celebrates the rich literary and cultural history of Latinos. Darlene Clark Hine, African American studies, offers a valuable new understanding of the role and accomplishments of black women. Aldon Morris, sociology, sheds new light on Du Bois and reveals the racial biases that confronted black scholars during much of the 20th century.
Invisible Women Come into the Light “I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you, finally, a responsibility to our young people.” — Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and founder, National Council of Negro Women Harriet Tubman. Sojourner Truth. Rosa Parks. With the exception of a handful of names, American history books have rarely acknowledged the role of black women, leaving us unaware of remarkable people who did extraordinary things under difficult circumstances. It’s an omission that is changing — in large part due to Darlene Clark Hine, the Board of Trustees Professor of African American Studies and Professor of History. Only a few black women rose to the stature of Parks, for example, during the Civil Rights Era. But, says Hine, there were many others whose actions helped Photos by Eileen Molony
shape, sustain, and organize that movement and eventually make it successful. Progress sometimes emerged from unspeakable tragedy.
From left: Northwestern scholars Aldon Morris, sociology; Darlene Clark Hine, African American studies; and John Alba Cutler, English
Research | Fall + Winter 2015