#AAIHS2021: A Virtual Conference on “The West”

Black Panther mural, side wall of Rick’s Barbershop, 3406 Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, 2011 (Library of Congress).

Today, the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) begins its sixth annual conference–and our first ever virtual conference! This year’s conference is sponsored by Loyola Marymount University. The conference will take place today and tomorrow and will feature a wide variety of panels exploring the many facets of this year’s theme, “The West.” We encourage everyone–including those who are unable to attend the conference–to visit the virtual book exhibit to check out featured books and discounts.

Today’s first session will feature a panel that delves into the aggressive expansion of the American empire into Liberia, Brazil, and the Philippines. A concurrent panel will feature writers from the newly released and highly-acclaimed volume, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited by AAIHS President Keisha N. Blain and AAIHS life-member Ibram X. Kendi. Later, registrants can join a lively discussion on AAIHS member Tiffany Florvil’s new book, Mobilizing Black Germany: Afro-German Women and the Making of a Transnational Movement or enjoy the panel on “Interrogating Western Religion and Spirituality,” moderated by the inimitable religious scholar Anthea Butler. Conference committee member Alaina Morgan will discuss Pakistani nationalism, Islamicization, and Afro-Asian solidarities in the Nation of Islam. Concurrently, AAIHS members Margarita Rosa and Jaden Janak, both talented graduate students, will present on sex workers and prison abolitionism on the panel, “Prison Industrial Complex and the Western Carceral State,” moderated by AAIHS member Robyn Spencer.

Later today, AAIHS Vice President Tyler Parry will discuss his first book, Jumping the Broom:The Surprising Multicultural Origins of a Black Wedding Ritualwith several scholars, including acclaimed historians Tera W. Hunter and Kevin Dawson, while conference committee member Jasmin Young moderates a workshop on “Navigating the Virtual Job Market,” featuring trailblazing leaders in higher education Pero Dagbovie, Kevin Gannon, and P. Gabrielle Foreman. Attendees may also learn about entertainer Billie Holiday’s time in California during a dynamic panel on “Black arts and expression in the West.” Then, all conference attendees will gather to listen to the conference keynote conversation with renowned scholars Tiya Miles of Harvard University and Robin D.G. Kelley of the University of California Los Angeles. The day will end with a lively session with Martha Biondi, Claudrena Harold, Elizabeth Todd-Breland and Destin Jenkins on AAIHS life-member Davarian Baldwin’s new book, In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering Our Cities. Other panelists will join a conversation on rethinking the archives and theorizing “The West.”

Saturday will be jammed packed with intellectual engagement and celebration. Scholars challenge western institutions with concurrent panels on education and the U.S. military. Later in the morning, panelists will discuss Black and indigenous relations, as well as “Protest and Resistance in the American Urban West” while Haitian director Etant Dupain shows and discusses his new documentary, Madan Sara, with renowned scholar of Haiti Marlene Daut. Soon afterward, critically acclaimed filmmaker and MacArthur Foundation Fellow Stanley Nelson and UCLA Professor Scot Brown discuss Nelson’s latest film, Crack, and his remarkable body of work.

In the afternoon, conference committee member Adam X. McNeil will moderate an “Author Engages Reader” panel on award-winning historian Thavolia Glymph’s groundbreaking new book, The Women’s Fight: The Civil War’s Battles for Home, Freedom, and Nation. The session will include remarks from David Blight, Martha S. Jones, Tamika Nunley, and Mekala Audain. Conference attendees will also have an opportunity to attend a session on the Haitian Revolution, and another on the battle for public health in “The West.”  Then, AAIHS members Quito Swan, Carole Boyce Davies, Ashley Farmer, and Russell Rickford confront “The West in Crisis,” as AAIHS Secretary Grace Gipson moderates a panel on “Race, Media, and Comics” with Deborah Elizabeth Whaley, John Jennings, Julian Chambliss, and Qiana J. Whitted. Attendees can also join a discussion between author William Sturkey and readers of his award-winning new book, Hattiesburg: An American City in Black and White.  The last panels of the day feature conversations regarding Covid-19 and the Black community, as well as the role and function of public scholarship in society.

AAIHS invites all attendees to celebrate this year’s winners of the Paula Murray Book Prize in Intellectual History, the Maria Stewart Journal Article Prize, the Du Bois-Wells Graduate Student Best Paper Prize, and the CLR James Research Fellowship.  Directly after the award ceremony, conference attendees are invited to attend a virtual AAIHS Social, co-sponsored by the Department of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University. The social, filled with the sounds of DJ Space Jam, will include a mixologist and fun and games, including a session entitled “Hot Takes in Black Intellectual History.”

This year’s conference, although virtual, promises to deliver the most cutting-edge and insightful analysis of Black intellectual history. From new graduate students to New York Times bestselling authors, AAIHS scholars have an abiding commitment to sharing knowledge and challenging the myths of “The West.”

   **Click here to view the final conference program.
   **Click here to register for the conference.
   **Click here to view the virtual conference exhibit hall.
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Stefan Bradley

Stefan Bradley is the BCLA Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives and Professor of African American Studies at Loyola Marymount University. His most recent book is 'Upending the Ivory Tower: Civil Rights, Black Power and the Ivy League' (NYU Press, 2018). The book won several prizes, including the 2019 Outstanding Book Award from the History of Education Society. Follow him on Twitter @ProfSBradley.