Inside “African American History: From Emancipation through Jim Crow”

new wondrium series examines difficult history of jim crow era

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Emancipation only started the fight for Black Americans’ rights. For another century, hardships like Jim Crow laws and racial violence by white supremacists terrorized Black America. A new Wondrium series examines America after emancipation.

Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries in Wondrium studio
Photo by Wondrium

After the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, freed Black Americans faced a plethora of problems both old and new. The Ku Klux Klan came into existence, sharecropping proved to be more harmful than beneficial, and the “separate but equal” clause enabled state-sanctioned discrimination throughout the South. Meanwhile, the endurance of white supremacy led to acts of domestic terrorism against Black communities. Meanwhile, historic figures like Jack Johnson and Marcus Garvey became symbols of Black America’s fight for equality and true freedom.

In the new Wondrium series African American History: From Emancipation through Jim Crow, Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University, examines this fight’s victories, defeats, and key moments from abolition until World War II. In an exclusive interview, Brandon Hopkins, Wondrium content developer, discussed his work with Dr. Jeffries in bringing this series to life.

Hard History

“African American history is American history,” Hopkins said. “You cannot be interested in American history without having a deep knowledge of this part of it. It is a critical component of the story of the United States—the history of slavery, the history of emancipation, and then this very difficult period of Jim Crow with the systematic discrimination of a whole race of people.”

According to Hopkins, Dr. Jeffries calls this “hard history,” due to the nature of its subject matter. However, he said, it’s a history that’s vital to understanding the United States. Unfortunately, it’s also a history that has been rewritten often over the years or that has had key portions of it omitted. Dr. Jeffries rises to the challenge of teaching hard history and does so directly and fairly.

“It’s both got themes and a chronology to it,” Hopkins said.

The series starts with a look at what it meant for slaves to be emancipated and what it was supposed to mean for the country before moving on to Reconstruction and into the 20th century.

“You had, in many cases, insurrections of white people either against the politicians who were trying to enact Reconstruction or against African Americans themselves in the form of mob attacks and murder and lynching,” he said. “So there’s a huge history of white people killing Black people over things like them wanting to vote. A major theme of the whole 12 lectures is just the fact that despite emancipation, African Americans would continue for many decades to fight for basic freedom rights.”

Working with Dr. Jeffries

Hopkins praised Dr. Jeffries’s ability to tackle subjects like those covered in African American History: From Emancipation through Jim Crow as well as his writing skills. Dr. Jeffries even has a podcast called Teaching Hard History, produced in partnership with Learning for Justice, which looks at different eras of Black America, each season.

“He is really amazing at getting at these big broad historical strokes through very well-chosen stories of individuals and small groups of people,” Hopkins said. “So, he can show you a very personal story and then connect that to the bigger picture of what this point in history means.”

Hopkins also said that Dr. Jeffries is terrific in front of the camera. The power of his voice compels the viewer to listen, and Dr. Jeffries’s emotional impact relaying the subject matter makes it moving and relatable.

African American History: From Emancipation through Jim Crow is now available to stream on Wondrium.