The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: A conversation with historians Kristopher Bryan Burrell, Peter B. Levy, Laura Warren Hill, Crystal M. Moten, and Say Burgin

The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: A conversation with historians Kristopher Bryan Burrell, Peter B. Levy, Laura Warren Hill, Crystal M. Moten, and Say Burgin

This event has already happened.

Saturday, June 24th 2023
7:00 pm
Red Emma's
Did American racism originate in the liberal North? An inquiry into the system of institutionalized racism created by Northern Jim Crow

Jim Crow was not a regional sickness, it was a national cancer. Even at the high point of twentieth century liberalism in the North, Jim Crow racism hid in plain sight. Perpetuated by colorblind arguments about “cultures of poverty,” policies focused more on black criminality than black equality. Procedures that diverted resources in education, housing, and jobs away from poor black people turned ghettos and prisons into social pandemics. Americans in the North made this history. They tried to unmake it, too.

Liberalism, rather than lighting the way to vanquish the darkness of the Jim Crow North gave racism new and complex places to hide. The twelve original essays in this anthology unveil Jim Crow’s many strange careers in the North. They accomplish two goals: first, they show how the Jim Crow North worked as a system to maintain social, economic, and political inequality in the nation’s most liberal places; and second, they chronicle how activists worked to undo the legal, economic, and social inequities born of Northern Jim Crow policies, practices, and ideas.

The book ultimately dispels the myth that the South was the birthplace of American racism, and presents a compelling argument that American racism actually originated in the North.

Kristopher Bryan Burrell is Associate Professor of History at Hostos Community College—CUNY, in the Bronx. He earned his Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2011. Dr. Burrell researches and writes about the Black American civil rights movement in New York. He has contributed chapters on Ella Baker and Mae Mallory’s efforts to ameliorate racial inequities in the NYC public schools to The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South (New York University Press, 2019) and on the history of online learning at Hostos to Educational Technology at an Urban Community College (Palgrave McMillan, 2019). _He has also published in the _Western Journal of Black Studies, Public Seminar, _and the _Gotham Center Blog for New York City History. Dr. Burrell has contributed a chapter about the centrality of Black American activism to the pursuit of a multiracial democracy in the United States to the forthcoming collection, Fighting for the Soul of a Nation: Black Americans’ Struggle to Keep American Democracy Alive (University of Florida Press, 2023). He is currently working on a study of New York City’s civil rights movement titled Outsmarting Racism: New York's Black Intellectuals and Theorizing Northern Racism, 1945-1968​. Dr. Burrell is also proud to have been born and raised in Harlem, and now is proud to live in the Bronx.

Peter B. Levy recently retired after teaching for over thirty years at York College of Pennsylvania.  He is the author of over a dozen books, including: The Great Uprising: Race Riots in Urban America during the 1960s (2018); Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland (2003);  The New Left and Labor in the 1960s (1994), and  The Seedtime, The Work, and The Harvest: New Perspectives on the Black Freedom Struggle In America, co-edited by Jeffrey Littlejohn, and Reginald Ellis (2018), as well as numerous articles and essays, most notably: “The Media and H. Rap Brown: Friend or Foe of Jim Crow” in The Strange Careers of Jim Crow, (2019) and “Gloria Richardson and the Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland,” in Groundwork: Local Black Freedom Movements in America, (2005).   He has been the recipient of several awards including the York College Professional Service and Leadership Award (2012).   While he was born and raised in California, and attended graduate school at Columbia University in New York City, he has been proud to call Baltimore his home since 1989.

Laura Warren Hill is the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Bloomfield College in NJ. She simultaneously teaches History and Africana Studies, publishes on social movements, race, and women's leadership, and mentors students in the McNair Scholars program. She has authored Strike the Hammer: The Black Freedom Struggle in Rochester, NY, 1940-1970 (Cornell University Press) and co-edited with Julia Rabig, The Business of Black Power: Community Development, Corporate Responsibility and Capitalism in Postwar America (University of Rochester Press). She has contributed articles to The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture _and _Black Perspectives, and a chapter to _The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle outside of the South (New York University Press). _She lives in upstate New York with her son, Liam, who is now a first-year student in college.

Crystal M. Moten is a public historian, curator and writer who focuses on the intersection of race, class and gender to uncover the hidden histories of Black people in the Midwest. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, her research has appeared in books, journals, documentaries, and other media. Dr. Moten has taught at colleges and universities across the country and prior to joining the Obama Foundation as the inaugural Curator of Collections of Exhibitions, she worked as Curator of African American History in the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Her most recent book is Continually Working: Black Women, Community Intellectualism and Economic Justice in Postwar Milwaukee (Vanderbilt University Press, 2023)

Say Burgin is a historian of the 20th century US focusing on social movement and African American history. Originally from Iowa, she competed her BA (English and Women’s Studies) at St. Olaf College, and her MA (Race & Resistance) and PhD (History) at the University of Leeds, UK. In 2017, she joined the faculty of Dickinson College as Assistant Professor of History. Her publications have appeared in the Journal of Civil and Human RightsWomen’s History Review, the Journal of American Studies, the Journal of International Women’s Studies The Nation, and elsewhere. Her first book, Organizing Your Own: The White Fight for Black Power in Detroit recovers the rich history of white organizing for Black self-determination during the Black Power movement. It is forthcoming with New York University Press’s Black Power Series. Say co-created the educational website Rosa Parks’s Biography: A Resource for Teaching Rosa Parks which can be found at Follow her on Twitter @sayburgin.

RSVP on withfriendsSee all upcoming events

Location and hours

3128 Greenmount Avenue
Baltimore, MD

Tuesday-Saturday 9AM-9PM
Sunday 10AM-4PM

Get in touch


Phone: (410) 601-3072

If you'd like to propose an event, please fill out this form. If you have questions, email us at

Follow us






Get our newsletter