Letters from the

Archives of Marcus Bruce Christian

From & To Friends, Colleagues, & Wife

Letter 26

Dent Complains to Benjamin Quarles

about Christian’s Progress on WPA Material



To: Dr. Quarles

From: President Dent

Will you please let me know what progress Mr. Christian is making toward completing the manuscript covering the Dillard WPA study of THE NEGRO IN LOUISIANA and also what progress is being made in compiling a catalog of the material.

Only two months are left in the time allotted to Mr. Christian to complete both the catalog and the manuscript and I should like to know what progress is being made toward both these assignments on or before May 30.

I think it would be a mistake for Mr. Christian to let time slip by with the expectation of completing these at the last minute. The University has no funds which it can extend his stipend beyond May 31, and I think it would jeopardize Mr. Christian’s interest with the Rosenwald Fund if this work is not completed within the allotted time. This last statement, of course, is based on the assumption that they will give him a fellowship. I have already told them that Mr. Christian will have completed a manuscript and that you and Dean Moses will have read it by May 31.

The last time I was in the attic, apparently no work had been started toward rearranging the library storeroom. It was my understanding that Mr. Christian would get this done rather promptly.

A.W. Dent


Office of the President

April 1, 1943

c.c. Dean Moses, Mr. Christian

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Marcus Bruce Christian

Selected Diary Notes / Selected Poems  / Selected Letters

Debt: The First 5,000 Years

By David Graeber

Before there was money, there was debt. Every economics textbook says the same thing: Money was invented to replace onerous and complicated barter systems—to relieve ancient people from having to haul their goods to market. The problem with this version of history? There’s not a shred of evidence to support it. Here anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.  Graeber shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Italy to China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today without knowing it. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a fascinating chronicle of this little known history—as well as how it has defined human history, and what it means for the credit crisis of the present day and the future of our economy.

Economist Glenn Loury  /Criminalizing a Race

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

updated 5 April 2010