Today we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., a man of immeasurable courage and vision. We also celebrate the two-year anniversary of the creation of the African American Intellectual History Society, a blog and organization that seeks to advance the very ideals for which King lost his life. I first came up with the idea for creating the blog in late 2013 but had no clue where to be begin. Luckily, I had just been on a panel at the New England Historical Association conference with former blogger Lauren Kientz Anderson, where we talked about her experience helping to start the U.S. Intellectual History blog. In early January 2014, I wrote Lauren and asked if she’d be willing to talk about my idea for a group blog and on Martin Luther King Day, we had the discussion that officially set things in motion.
Over the next couple months, I wrote probably 25-30 people asking if they’d be willing to contribute monthly posts for this new group blog. Things were rough at the start, as probably only a quarter of the people I invited agreed to become bloggers. Nevertheless, with the indispensable help of my wife Shanice, who designed the initial website (as well as our two subsequent redesigns), we officially launched the blog on July 1, 2014. We received amazing support from the academic blogosphere, including the U.S. Intellectual History blog and the Junto blog, both of which had posts announcing our existence and encouraging their readers to follow us.
Things began to move quickly from there. By the end of the year, we had close to 20 bloggers, many of whom I recruited after the annual ASALH meeting in September 2014, and this helped the blog quickly become one of the leading academic blogs in the country. We went from focusing primarily on Black thought and culture in the United States to regularly featuring posts on African diasporic intellectual history, hosting excellent online roundtables, and reviewing important new works in the field. By June 2015, we incorporated as a 501 (c)(3) educational non-profit institution and we now have a wonderful leadership team in place consisting of Keisha N. Blain, Ashley Farmer, Brandon Byrd, and Jessica Johnson.
This March we will be hosting our first annual conference at UNC—Chapel Hill, “New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition.” The conference will feature a keynote address by Mark Anthony Neal, Professor of African and African American Studies at Duke University. There will be panels on an incredibly wide range of topics, including religion, politics, culture, literature, abolitionism, art, and internationalism. At the conference we will be giving out the inaugural Du Bois-Wells graduate student paper prize, featuring an award of $100 and a free one-year membership in AAIHS.
We are also thrilled to announce that we recently received a book contract for our first publication—a volume of essays on the black intellectual tradition, which I am editing with Keisha N. Blain and Ashley Farmer. And we have already begun planning our next conference, which will take place in Charlotte, NC in March 2017.
None of this would be possible without you–our dedicated readers and members. We truly appreciate the support you have shown us over the past couple of years and look forward to everything we can achieve together as the organization continues to grow and pursue new endeavors.
If you have yet to become a member of AAIHS we encourage you to join today. Members can vote and run for offices in AAIHS, serve on our committees, and receive a discounted rate for conference registrations. Above all, members of AAIHS play an integral part in helping to advance the organization’s vision to foster informed and meaningful dialogue about researching, writing, and teaching global black thought and culture. We hope that you will join us in this effort.