Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Censoring Racial Ridicule: Irish, Jewish, and African American Struggles over Race and Representation, 1890-1930

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Censoring Racial Ridicule: Irish, Jewish, and African American Struggles over Race and Representation, 1890-1930

Article excerpt

Censoring Racial Ridicule: Irish, Jewish, and African American Struggles over Race and Representation, 1890-1930. By M. Alison Kibler. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. Pp. [xiv], 314. Paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-1836-4.)

This book is an excellent comparative study of the antidefamation activism undertaken by Irish American, Jewish American, and African American organizations in the opening decades of the twentieth century. M. Alison Kibler is careful to distinguish the particular factors shaping each movement, showing how the internal dynamics of civil rights groups and censorship boards conditioned the struggle over racial representation. By drawing on a substantial collection of primary sources--newspapers, magazines, correspondence, playbills, advertisements, reviews, statutes, federal and state court decisions, the archives of civil rights and self-defense organizations, and public records of local censorship boards--she reconstructs, in convincing detail, the arguments that were made about whether and how the arts should be regulated to guard against racial ridicule.

The book is most impressive in demonstrating why these three movements need to be seen in relation to one another. Some activists were quick to condemn not only slanderous depictions of their own group, but also the defamatory representations of others. When the rabbi Joseph Silverman, for example, called in 1908 for the necessity of founding an agency to defend "the Jewish name," he drew the analogy to successful Irish American protests against plays like McFadden's Row of Flats (1896) even as he also repurposed claims he had made previously concerning the antiblack racism of Thomas Dixon's theatrical production of The Clansman in 1905 (p. …

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