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The voices of Jacob on the streets of Brooklyn: Black and Jewish Israelites in and around Crown Heights

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Abstract

In this article, I show how categories of identity formation such as “race,”“religion,”“Blackness,” and “Jewishness” may be used—often in tandem—as historiographic tools, helping communities lay claim to contested pasts. I examine the historiographic discourses of Blacks and Jews in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights, focusing on the competing claims of Israelite descent advanced by the Lubavitch Hasidim and the Black Hebrew Israelites. Although I trace the roles of both race and religion in these historical narratives, I argue that such categories cannot fully account for the histories and identities of many Crown Heights residents.

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