Let's Build Our Own House

Following the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era, a period of time in which political leadership attempted to reunify the nation while addressing the political, social, and economic legacies of slavery, a counter response emerged, focused on re-creating white supremacist systems of violence through governmental, legal, and extrajudicial pathways. These systems culminated in Jim Crow laws, mandating segregation while politically and economically disenfranchising Black Americans. During this period of intense violence, early Black and Muslim newspapers offered counterculture visions of a future free from the oppression and violence and centered around self-determination.

In an essay for Southern Cultures, Darien Alexander Williams, traces the history of political artwork in Muhammad Speaks newspaper, and how artists and writers who published in these outlets nurtured new cultural and political projects for their Black readers. “Muhammad Speaks, particularly for those fleeing the physical and institutional violence of Jim Crow, crafted a new national identity that linked global anticolonial struggles with ongoing struggles in the South that the readers had just departed from,” said Williams. 

Williams, a recent DUSP alum (PhD ‘23), joined Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) as an assistant professor in the School’s Macro Department. His research focuses on racial justice and community organizing by exploring how marginalized communities impact the natural and built environments. He studies how these groups recover, adapt, and rebuild themselves after catastrophes. He also examines the history of land use planning as it intersects with the criminal legal system, and how Black urban planners dismantle white supremacist spaces.

Read Williams’ “Let’s Build Our Own House”