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Kevin Mumford

Kevin Mumford

History
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Fellow, 2021-22

For the fellowship year, Kevin Mumford intends to complete a book manuscript on the modern dynamics of hate.  His research looks at organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Lesbian and Gay Task Force, as well as local groups, such as Communities United Against Violence and the Japanese American Citizens League.  Biographical portraits of incidents and victims, such as the murder of Vincent Chin, the drowning of Charlie Howard, and the lynching of Loyal Gardner, Jr., help to flesh out the growing public recognition of the problem across the nation and abroad.  At the same time, the pioneering black congressmen, Representative John Conyers, Jr. spearheaded hearings on bias crimes around the twentieth anniversary of the famous Kerner Commission Hearings that investigated urban violence in 1968.  The debate on the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 highlighted the cultural wars divide between liberals such Senator Edward Kennedy and conservatives such as Senator Jesse Helms. 

At the same time, as the government established national standards on the expression of bias and enhanced sentencing for crimes, many questioned if such actions would be permitted by the courts. The rise of a new generation of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s signaled not only a resurgence of white supremacy but also a First Amendment crisis.  A variety of anti-violence projects, such as Communities United Against Violence and the Japanese American Citizens League worked to protect communities from rising incidents of vandalism, battery, and homicide, among other acts.  All of this in the shadow of the Reagan Presidency and the rightward political turn that has powerfully reshaped government and society in our own times.

Mumford is professor of history at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His first book, Interzones: Black/White Vice Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century (Columbia University Press, 1997), analyzed the Progressive-era backlash against the Great Migration, prostitution, and dance that unintentionally spawned a thriving underground of interracial intimacy that transformed urban modernism.  His Newark: A History of Race, Rights, and Riots in America (New York University Press, 2007) critically examined the urban crisis in a major postwar city that culminated not only in violent riots but also political redistribution.  Not Straight, Not White:  Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) presented biographical portraits of both famous and obscure black gay activists mobilizing against racial and sexual injustice on both sides of the color line.