#AAIHS2024–Reparations: Past, Present, and Future

Atlanta, Georgia, US, June 6 2020: Black Lives Matter peaceful protests during COVID-19 pandemic

Later this week the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) will hold its ninth annual conference from March 8-9, 2024 at the University of Virginia. The conference is hosted by the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, which generously offered space and financial support to make this year’s gathering possible. The two-day event continues in the AAIHS tradition of offering the most compelling work on African American intellectual history from scholars throughout the world.

The theme for this year is “Reparations: Past, Present, and Future.” The sessions feature the important work of AAIHS members around reparations—as an idea, a practice, and a demand. The papers and panels from scholars, activists, educators, and artists grapple with the varied meanings of reparations and reparative justice. Panelists will consider how their work informs, challenges, complicates, historicizes and speaks to the discursive and organizational practice of reparations.

As we prepare for the first day of the conference, we are highlighting a selection of panels, roundtables, and special sessions that encapsulate the important work being done by AAIHS scholars in 2024. Refer to the conference program for more details.

On Thursday evening, conference attendees are invited to a welcome reception and introduction to “Swords into Ploughshares: The Future of the Robert E. Lee Statue.” Led by Andrea Douglas, Executive Director of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center and Jalane Schmidt, Director of the UVA Democracy Initiative’s Memory Project, “Swords into Ploughshares” is an innovative project to melt down the statue of Robert E. Lee that formerly stood in one of Charlottesville’s public parks and use the bronze to make a new work of public art.

On Friday morning, the conference begins with an array of sessions on reparations and more, including one on “Abolition, Control, and Preservation: Bearing Witness to the Archive’s Demand for Educational Reparations,” featuring Derrick P. Alridge (University of Virginia), Darrion Wallace (Stanford University), Christian Walkes (Harvard University), and Zenzile Reddick (Harvard University). Concurrently, Sanyu Mulira (Spelman College), Nicholas Andersen (Tufts University), and Nigel Westmaas (Hamilton College) explore the international dimensions of reparations.

Later that morning, Justin Reid, the Founder of Griffin Blvd Archives, leads a roundtable discussion on “Descendant Communities and the Land in Viriginia,” featuring Hannah Scruggs (Harvard University), Auriana Wood (The Getting Word Oral History Project), and Niya Bates (Princeton University).

One of the highlights of the day is a luncheon and screening of The Big Payback, featuring a Q&A with Robin Rue Simmons. To conclude the first day’s events, conference attendees will experience an enlightening keynote featuring Ta-Nehisi Coates, and an awards ceremony to celebrate the innovative scholarship being produced by members of AAIHS. We will honor the winners of AAIHS’s annual awards: the Pauli Murray Book Prize, the C.L.R. James Research Fellowship, the Maria Stewart Journal Article Prize, and the Du Bois-Wells Graduate Student Paper Prize.

Saturday, March 9 will feature a wide array of sessions throughout the day, showcasing a variety of topics discussing Black life in the United States and beyond. Justin Hansford (Howard University) will lead a discussion on “Building a Cast for Reparations,” featuring Linda J. Mann (George Mason University), Corey C. Shaw (D.C. Legacy Project Director of Empower DC), and Chakera Ervin (Human Rights Counsel for Permanent Forum on People of African Descent at United Nations).

We also feature a variety of “Author Meets Engaged Readers” special sessions, including one on Andrew W. Kahrl’s The Black Tax: 150 Years of Theft, Exploitation, and Dispossession in America (University of Chicago Press). The session features Devin Fergus (University of Missouri), Camille Walsh (University of Washington Bothell), Esther Cyna (Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin, Paris-Saclay), and Mike Amezcua (Georgetown University). The final reception on Saturday evening features a musical performance by JoVia Armstrong, a percussionist, sound artist, composer, and educator from Detroit, Michigan.

Collectively, the papers and presentations that comprise the ninth annual conference highlight the regional, thematic, and chronological diversity of AAIHS scholars and the important work they do in producing accessible scholarship to the broader public. We look forward to witnessing the dynamic intellectual exchanges at this meeting that will surely foster new approaches toward research, activism, and community building in the future.

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Robert Greene II

Robert Greene II is an assistant professor of history at Claflin University and Senior Editor of Black Perspectives. He studies American history after 1945 with a focus on the American South, political history, and memory. Follow him on Twitter @robgreeneII.

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