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Center for Jewish Studies Presents

Caroline Light Presents: “Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South”

11/30/17, 7:30 PM

About this event

This talk addresses the complex intersection of benevolence and self-preservation that produced Jewish orphan homes in the Jim Crow South. Whether native or foreign-born, rich or poor, Jewish southerners could not ignore the rigidly defined color line, or the regime of racial terror that reinforced it. Those with the means to do so invested substantial time, energy, and money in an effort to “take care of their own” while transforming the poorest Jewish orphans into exemplars of southern citizenship.
Caroline Light is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Harvard’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. She has a doctorate in history, and her work explores the ways in which race, gender, and region shape collective (mis)memory and archival silence. Her first book, That Pride of Race and Character: the Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South (NYU Press, 2014) illuminates the experience of southern Jewish assimilation through the lens of benevolent outreach to reveal how gendered and racialized performances of elite, white cultural capital served as a critical mode of survival for a racially liminal community of southerners. Her recent book, Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense (Beacon Press, 2017) provides a critical genealogy of armed citizenship. Beginning with the centuries-old adage “a man’s home is his castle,” she tracks the history of our nation’s relationship to lethal self-defense, from the duty to retreat to the “shoot first, ask questions later” ethos that prevails in many jurisdictions today. Her work reveals how contemporary appeals to “stand your ground” mask an exclusionary commitment to security for the few, at the expense of the many.

Cosponsored by History
This event is free and open to the public.
Event Location
  • Mount Zion Temple
  • 1300 Summit Avenue
  • St. Paul MN
  • USA