Learn more about Peltz-Steele v. UMass Faculty Federation at Court Listener and the Liberty Justice Center. The case is now on appeal in the First Circuit as no. 22-1466 (PACER paywall). Please direct media inquiries to Kristen Williamson.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Comedy of Roy Wood Jr. surfaces under-appreciated contributions of real historical black figures

Roy Wood Jr.
(photo by Lisa Gansky CC BY-SA 2.0)

I'm a big fan of Roy Wood Jr., and every installment of his "CP Time" bit on The Daily Show is an instant classic.  They're always funny, but often, also, are educational.

Last year during African American History Month, Wood talked about little recognized black explorers, such as Matthew Henson, an American who journeyed to the North Pole, and Abubakari II, a Malian royal said to have set sail for the New World more than a century before Columbus.

This year, on Wednesday night, he highlighted African American spies who contributed importantly in the history of war and civil rights, including Josephine Baker and Harriet Tubman.

Baker on a German poster in 1929
The piece reminded me of two memorable experiences learning about these women.  I first learned about Josephine Baker, an American-born French resistance agent in World War II, only recently, in a seemingly unlikely place, a 2019 exhibit at the Musée d'Orsay titled Black Models: from Géricault to Matisse.  In the brilliant, wide-ranging exhibit on the intersection of black culture and French history, Baker was featured among entertainers whose work was fused into a new French cultural identity in the 20th century.

Tubman NHP in 2018 (photo by RJ Peltz-Steele CC BY-SA 4.0)
In 2018, my family first visited the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, which opened in Maryland in 2013.  Situated amid the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, the museum is not on the beaten path, but it's worth every extra mile to visit.  Impassionedly curated, the exhibits comprise an encyclopedic history of civil rights of which I knew precious little, even having gone to grade school in Maryland and being schooled in constitutional law.  Tubman's vital contributions as a Union spy, as well as the real story of her military leadership, portrayed by an eponymous 2019 film, is featured among narratives every American should know about the future face of our $20 note.

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