#AAIHS2017: Expanding the Boundaries of Black Intellectual History

Davarian L. Baldwin (Keynote speaker)

The past year has certainly been an exciting one for the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). In the months following our first annual conference, we continued to grow as the leading scholarly organization for the study of the black thought. There have also been some exciting changes, particularly with the re-naming of our online publication, Black Perspectives.

Now, AAIHS is proud to host its second annual conference, Expanding the Boundaries of Black Intellectual History, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. A two-day event taking place on March 24th and 25th, 2017, the conference will feature sessions on all aspects of the black intellectual tradition. The program includes panels foregrounding black internationalism, black women’s history, slavery, and civil rights, as well as the relationship between black intellectual history and the digital humanities.

The conference begins on Friday, March 25th with sessions on literature and black intellectual history; black intellectuals, science, and technology; sites and theories of black liberation and racial contestation; and a roundtable on “The Black Intellectual in Academia” featuring AAIHS founder and president Christopher Cameron and Black Perspectives writers Kami Fletcher and Ashley Farmer. Daina Ramey Berry and Corey D.B. Walker, both profiled on Black Perspectives for their groundbreaking scholarship and leadership within the ebony tower, will also participate on this timely roundtable.

More exciting sessions follow. These include panels and roundtables on black thought in museums; slavery and sexuality; twentieth-century black radicalism; black women writers; and prominent Afro-diasporic intellectuals including Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, Arturo Schomburg, and Louis-Joseph Janvier. Participants who have followed conversations about Global Garveyism and Haiti at Black Perspectives will especially enjoy the session entitled “Expanding the Boundaries of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism,” which features two of its writers, Russell Rickford and Brandon R. Byrd, along with Leslie M. Alexander, Michael O. West, and Asia Leeds.

Thanks to generous support from the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities, AAIHS is pleased to host two sessions on black intellectual history and digital humanities featuring the leading scholars and practitioners in the field. On the first morning of the conference, Pier Gabrielle Foreman, Kim Gallon, and Angel David Nieves will lead a seminar on “Digital Humanities and Professional Development” that will be useful for senior scholars, junior faculty, and graduate students alike. That session will be followed by an afternoon “Digital Tools Workshop” led by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Julia Wallace, and Black Perspectives writer Jessica Marie Johnson.

Both sessions will help expand—or break down—the boundaries of black intellectual history today. An afternoon roundtable on “The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing” will, too. Moderated by Black Perspectives associate blog editor and award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi, the roundtable features editors from the University of Pennsylvania Press, the University of Georgia Press, the University of Illinois Press, and Beacon Press. It promises to not only provide necessary insights for first-time authors but also continue online conversations about increasing publishing opportunities and initiatives in the expanding field of black intellectual history. Throughout the conference, participants can learn more about and purchase new titles and series in the field at our book exhibit which will feature Vanderbilt University Press, the University Press of Florida, and the University of Pennsylvania Press.

The first day will end with a keynote address from Davarian L. Baldwin, the Paul E. Raether Professor of American Studies at Trinity College. Participants are welcomed to attend a reception immediately following what will undoubtedly be a stimulating talk.

On the morning of Saturday, March 25th, participants will hear from emerging and established scholars on a range of topics including the relationship between the archive and black intellectual history; ideas about race and nation in the Caribbean; black internationalism and biography; and the role of black activists, anthropologists, and authors in intellectual production across the African Diaspora. A roundtable on the late Cedric Robinson featuring Stephen G. Hall, Minkah Makalani, Damien Sojoyner, Stephen M. Ward, and Tiffany Ruby Patterson continues our ongoing commemoration of and reflection on the pioneering black thinker.

The afternoon includes sessions that highlight black women and the archive; radio as a site of Haitian intellectual history; Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Cuban thought; black intellectuals and the social sciences in West and East Africa; religion and black intellectual history; spatial theory and black thought; and global Black-Jewish relations. It also includes a plenary session on “Abolitionism and Black Intellectual History.” At this event, conference participants will have the opportunity to engage with leading and emerging scholars in the field including Richard Blackett, Marlene Daut, Vincent Carretta, and Black Perspectives writers Yesenia Barragan and Chernoh Sesay Jr. Addressing abolition and abolitionists in their Haitian, United States, Columbian, and Atlantic contexts, this session will provide an invaluable opportunity to address black intellectual history across both geographic and temporal boundaries.

Ultimately, regardless of academic discipline or the period of history in which you work, the second annual AAIHS conference offers valuable opportunities to make new connections and learn more about publishing opportunities as well as novel digital and archival approaches to studying black intellectual history. Since its founding in 2014, AAIHS has quickly become a leader in the field of intellectual history while Black Perspectives is one of the most widely read online academic publications. Our conference, “Expanding the Boundaries of the Black Intellectual Tradition,” promises to continue this commitment to cutting-edge and innovative scholarship in the black intellectual tradition. The AAIHS Executive Committee and Conference Committee both look forward to seeing you in Nashville soon.

Click here to download the full conference program.

Click here to become a member of AAIHS.

Click here to register for the conference by March 15.

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Brandon Byrd

Brandon R. Byrd is an assistant professor of history at Vanderbilt University and author of 'The Black Republic: African Americans and the Fate of Haiti.' Follow him on Twitter @bronaldbyrd.