Theses Master's

Economic Genocide and the Black Press: Articulating African American Illness and Death in Chicago, IL (1910-1951)

Ivins, Erica

In 1946, Polish legal scholar Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide to describe the deliberate mass destruction of a racial, ethnical, national, or religious group. In 1948, the United Nations subsequently ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, making racial persecution an international issue for the first time. Within genocide studies, scholars have widely accepted that the Holocaust can be used to measure the magnitude of other mass atrocities. However, a growing body of scholarship on economic genocide rejects this approach, exploring how structural economic oppression creates conditions which facilitate the extermination of a group over time by depleting its health and lifespan.

Using economic genocide as a theoretical lens, this case study examines Black illness and death in twentieth-century Chicago, Ill., I begin to fill knowledge gaps in genocide studies by folding medical research into human rights discourse, allowing quantitative medical data to supplement the qualitative nature of Black Chicagoans’ lived experiences. This thesis examines the language of Black historical newspapers to create a rhetorical database from which to determine the markers of economic genocide as experienced and described by Black Chicagoans. In using this source base, I seek to first and foremost center Black human rights discourse in order to push the boundaries of the Convention and challenge Holocaust-driven genocide studies.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Mouradian, Khatchig
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
March 8, 2023