Clarence Lang is dean of the College of the Liberal Arts and Professor of African American Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Grassroots at the Gateway: Class Politics and Black Freedom Struggle in St. Louis, 1936–75 (2009) and Black America in the Shadow of the Sixties: Notes on the Civil Rights Movement, Neoliberalism, and Politics (2015). He is a coeditor, with Robbie Lieberman, of Anticommunism and the African American Freedom Movement: "Another Side of the Story" (2009) and, with Andrew Kersten, of Reframing Randolph: Labor, Black Freedom, and the Legacies of A. Philip Randolph (2015). A cowinner of the OAH EBSCOhost America: History and Life Award, Lang has published in the Journal of African American History, Journal of Urban History, Journal of Social History, the Black Scholar, New Politics, Critical Sociology, American Studies Journal, and the Crisis. He also has written for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Against the Current, LaborOnline, Working-Class Perspectives, and the Black Commentator.
As “North” and “South” converge in a new synthesis of the history of the Black Freedom Movement, scholars confront the need to expand and refine typologies of place for assessing both the national character and regional particularities of historic African American freedom struggles. Among other things, this method calls for (1) treatment of regional histories, local political economies, and African Americans’ position therein; (2) government processes at the city, state, and federal levels; (3) interpretation of the specific forms of black community and institutional development, and class stratification, present among defined black populations; (4) consideration of the dynamics of migration and immigration to a given locale, and the impact on African Americans, both interracially and intraracially; and (5) an appreciation of the uneven patterns of political development, organization and mobilization among black communities across time and place. Using the city of St. Louis, Missouri, as an illustration, this presentation argues for a conceptualization of the “border South” region as a transitional space where both northern and southern political economies, migration and immigration patterns, and modes of black racial control and black politics merged, often prefiguring shifts in the rest of the nation. This presentation suggests that the peculiar histories of such border states such as Missouri, Maryland, and Kentucky illustrate simultaneously the instability and concreteness of regional designations in historical narratives of black freedom struggle.