Historian Dr. Anna-Lisa Grace Cox will be our guest at a luncheon on Friday, April 24 to discuss her book A Stronger Kinship.
In the years following the Civil War, the nation struggled to redefine the relationship between European Americans and African Americans. After the Civil War, legislatures in Southern states passed “Black Codes” aimed at limiting the rights of African Americans. The era spawned the birth of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan. The repression of former slaves, however, was not limited to the south. Northern states also had adopted laws limiting the civil rights of African Americans prior to the Civil War. Many of those laws remained on the books following the war. In 1867, for example, voters in Michigan turned down a proposed state constitution that would have allowed African Americans to vote. It was not until 1883 that Michigan repealed its ban on interracial marriages.
There was one community in Michigan, however, in which African Americans and white Americans lived together in a culture of respect and equality. The story of Covert, Michigan, as told by Dr. Cox in A Stronger Kinship, is a tale of how a small Midwestern town looked beyond race to create an inclusive community. African Americans attended the same schools and churches as whites. They belonged to the same social clubs, such as the Grange. African American farmers and business people thrived and became prominent employers of white workers in the community. They married whites. African Americans were elected by white voters to key positions such as the Highway Commissioner and Justice of the Peace.
How could this happen? What made this possible? These are some of the questions Dr. Cox will address when she speaks to our firm on Friday, April 24. Dr. Cox is a Non Resident Fellow at Harvard’s Hutchins Center where she is at work on a research project with Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., on African American pioneers to the antebellum frontier. She also holds the position of Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, where her research is underpinning a permanent exhibit.