This week, we are heading to the 101st annual meeting of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) in Richmond, Virginia. We are sponsoring several sessions on a range of topics including the methodology of black intellectual history, the writings of Alain Locke, and black internationalism and diasporic politics. Here is a list of our sponsored panels at ASALH. See the conference program for more details.
Problems and Approaches in African American Intellectual History
The study of black thought and culture has been a vital component of African American history since its inception in the 19th century. This roundtable discussion will explore some of the central questions and methodological approaches in scholarship on African American intellectual history. Bringing together senior scholars in the field as well as junior scholars from the African American Intellectual History Society blog, we will discuss methods for studying colonial and revolutionary Black thought, Black internationalism, and Black women’s intellectual history, among other topics.
Panelists: Christopher Cameron (chair); Chad Williams; Keisha N. Blain; Jared Hardesty; Martha Jones
Alain Locke Beyond the Harlem Renaissance
Alain LeRoy Locke (1885-1954) remains one of the most underappreciated African American intellectuals in history. He is best known for his leadership role in the Harlem Renaissance, and particularly for editing the movement’s bible The New Negro, in 1925. Locke also attend Oxford University as the first Black Rhodes Scholar, served as a philosophy professor at Howard University for nearly four decades, and helped develop the concept of cultural pluralism, the precursor to modern multiculturalism. Yet he remains understudied relative even to other contributors to The New Negro, including W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Langston Hughes. This panel seeks to inject new life into Locke scholarship by focusing on his career beyond the New Negro movement. David Weinfeld, visiting assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, looks at Locke’s friendship with American Jewish philosopher Horace Kallen, showing how the idea of friendship itself underpinned Locke’s understanding of cultural pluralism. Jay Garcia, associate professor of comparative literature at New York University, uses Antonio Gramsci’s notion of the “national-popular” to reinterpret Locke’s ideas on nation and race through an analysis of essays Locke wrote before, during, and after the Harlem Renaissance. Brittany Hall, doctoral candidate in history at Rutgers University, puts Locke’s failed effort to establish an African art museum in Harlem in a broader conversation with that era’s emphasis on “hypervisuality” to investigate Locke’s larger goal of creating a Black American aesthetic. Jacoby Adeshei Carter, assistant professor of philosophy at John Jay College, will provide commentary.
Panelists: Jacoby Adeshei Carter (chair and commentator); David Weinfeld; Jay Garcia; Brittany Hall
Contesting the American Narrative: African American Burial Spaces, Death Material Culture and Public Memorial
Public memory around the death of African Americans creates compelling and often competing narratives. In death, for African Americans there is a celebration of triumph, freedom, and autonomy while at the same time a reminder of the marginalized and subjugated racial stereotypes that outline and normalizes Black lives. Yet and still, burial spaces dominated by African Americans and death material culture laced with Black norms contest marginalized and subjugated narratives by first changing the view point and by secondly taking control of these narratives becoming sites of resistance, freedom, and even protection. In this way, segregated Black burial spaces during the antebellum period served to protect enslaved Blacks from the hellish slaveholder and to ensure their ascendency to Heaven. In the face of Jim Crow racism, Black burial spaces and funerary culture highlighted both individual and community accomplishments; and emphasized layered kinship ties shattering one-dimensional stereotypes. From the elaborate funerals and last rites ceremonies underscored by expensive coffins and hearses in Memphis during the 1920’s, Black funerary culture served as expression of religious identity.
Panelists: Terri Snyder (chair); Lynn Rainville; Adrienne Chudzinski; Kristine McKuster; Kami Fletcher
Black Internationalism and Diasporic Politics
This panel, sponsored by the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), explores the complex dynamics of black internationalism during the twentieth century. It focuses on the global visions; transnational activities; and transracial political alliances of people of African descent worldwide. Papers will offer varied perspectives on black internationalist movements and discourses, utilizing various sources and research methodologies.
Panelists: Kira Thurman (chair); Zakiya Adair; Greg Childs; Reena Goldthree; Brandon Byrd; Gerald Horne (commentator)
Black Power Reconsidered: Rethinking the Provenance and Paths of Black Power Thought and Praxis
From Peniel Joseph’s Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour to Rhonda Williams’s Concrete Demands, the history of the Black Power era is now a rapidly growing field of African American history. This panel pushes the historical discussion even further by reconsidering Black Power from its origins to its apex. The panel consists of four scholars who will explore the Black Power era using different approaches ranging from intellectual to international history. Presenters will speak about a range of key issues such as women and gender roles, feminism, Pan-Africanism, and student activism before and during the 1960s, paying particular attention to how their perspectives reshape existing narratives of Black Power thought and praxis. Collectively, the papers featured on this panel explore the state of the field of Black Power history. They also pinpoint new and generative directions for the next phase of popular and exciting branch of history.
Panelists: Ashley Farmer (chair); Stefan Bradley; Mary Phillips; Seth Markle; Garrett Felber; Stephen Ward (commentator)
Racial Ideologies and Struggles for Social Justice
This panel, sponsored by the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), offers various perspectives on ideas about race and struggles for social justice during the twentieth century. The panel highlights the individual and group contributions of black intellectuals to national and global politics, racial ideologies, and social justice movements. Drawing insights from diverse fields including History, African American Studies, Feminist Theory, and Cultural Studies, this panel foregrounds the ideas and activities of black intellectuals in the United States and other parts of the globe from the early twentieth century to the 1960s.
Panelists: Noelle Trent (chair); E. Tsekani Browne; Guy Emerson Mount; Marsha Barrett; Ibram X. Kendi; Pero Dagbovie (commentator)
Honoring the Life and Legacy of Cedric Robinson
This session is dedicated to honoring the life and legacy of the late Cedric Robinson, a beloved scholar and mentor who authored several foundational texts including Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition and Terms of Order: Political Science and the Myth of Leadership and Black Movements in America. Dr. Robinson was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Black Studies and the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley and his MA and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He served as Chair of the Department of Black Studies as well as of Political Science and has also served as the Director of the Center for Black Studies at UCSB. His fields of teaching and research included modern political thought, radical social theory in the African Diaspora, comparative politics, and media and politics. Dr. Robinson authored numerous articles on US, African and Caribbean political thought; Western social theory, film and the press.
Panelists: Paula C. Austin (chair); Tiffany Ruby Patterson, Stephen G. Hall, Minkah Makalani; Stephen Ward