Online Forum–Black Women and Reproductive Rights

(Johnny Silvercloud /
August 1, 2022 to August 8, 2022

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum on the theme of Black Women and Reproductive Rights. Organized by Professor Hettie V. Williams, the online forum brings together scholars to discuss how Black women have fought for reproductive justice since the nation’s founding, from resisting sexual exploitation and medical experimentation under slavery to fighting against forced sterilization. The scholarship of Jennifer L. Morgan, Deirdre Cooper Owens, Loretta Ross, Jennifer Nelson and others underscore the interconnections between gender, reproduction, labor and politics. As these works reveal, Black women’s bodies have been political battlegrounds for centuries–often at the center of debates around reproductive rights and autonomy. The online forum begins on Monday, August 1st, and concludes on Monday, August 8th. The forum will feature contributions from Hettie V. Williams, Ashley D. Farmer, Elise A. Mitchell, Jennifer L. Morgan, Tiana Wilson, Joseph Fitzgerald and Barbara Smith.

During the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 6:00AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHSon Twitter, like AAIHS on Facebook, or subscribe to our blog for updates. By subscribing to Black Perspectives, each new post will automatically be delivered to your inbox during the week of the roundtable.

About the Organizer

Hettie V. Williams is the president of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS). She is an Associate Professor of African American history in the Department of History and Anthropology at Monmouth University. She has taught survey courses in U.S. history, Western Civilization, and upper division courses on the history of African Americans at the university level for more than fifteen years. Her teaching and research interests include: African American intellectual history, gender in U.S. history, and race/ethnicity studies. She has published several book chapters and essays, and has edited/authored five books. Her latest book publications include Bury My Heart in a Free Land: Black Women Intellectuals in Modern U.S. History (Praeger, 2017) and, with Dr. G. Reginald Daniel, Race and the Obama Phenomenon: The Vision of a More Perfect Multiracial Union (University Press of Mississippi 2014). Her forthcoming books are A Seat at the Table: Black Women Public Intellectuals in U.S. History and Culture (University Press of Mississippi, 2021) and Garden of Opportunity: Black Women and the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey (Rutgers University, Press, 2021). Dr. Williams has also contributed opinion pieces, book reviews, and essays to media outlets such as the HuffPost, Daring Woman Magazinethe Asbury Park Press, the Star Ledger, and the award-winning peer reviewed blog Black Perspectives. She is also a host on the New Books Network Intellectual history channel and a research historian on “My Buddy: The WWII 369th Documentary Project.” She also hosts a weekly podcast show with Monmouth University faculty called “This Week in Black History, Society, and Culture.” Follow her on Twitter @DrHettie2017.

About the Participants

Ashley D. Farmer is a historian of black women’s history, intellectual history, and radical politics. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Departments of History and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era and a co-editor of New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition. Farmer’s scholarship has appeared in numerous venues including The Black Scholar and The Journal of African American History. Her research has also been featured in several popular outlets including VibeNPR, and The Chronicle Review, and The Washington Post. Her current book project is  Queen Mother Audley Moore: Mother of Black Nationalism, the first full-length biography of Moore whose career spanned nearly seventy years. Follow her on Twitter @drashleyfarmer.

Joseph R. Fitzgerald is an Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Cabrini University. He earned a doctorate in African American Studies and a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies from Temple University. He is the author of The Struggle is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation (The University Press of Kentucky, 2018). The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation explores the largely forgotten but deeply significant life of this central figure and her determination to improve the lives of black people. Using a wide range of source materials, including interviews with Richardson and her personal papers, as well as interviews with dozens of her friends, relatives, and civil rights colleagues, Joseph R. Fitzgerald presents an all-encompassing narrative. From Richardson’s childhood, when her parents taught her the importance of racial pride, through the next eight decades, Fitzgerald relates a detailed and compelling story of her life. He reveals how Richardson’s human rights activism extended far beyond Cambridge and how her leadership style and vision for liberation were embraced by the younger activists of the black power movement, who would carry the struggle on throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Dr. Fitzgerald is currently writing a biography of pioneering Black feminist Barbara Smith. Follow him on Twitter @StrugIsEternal.

Elise A. Mitchell is a historian of the early modern Black Atlantic and currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the History Department at Princeton University. Broadly, her work examines the social and cultural histories of slavery, the body, medicine and healing, disease, race, and gender in the early modern Atlantic World. She is currently working on a book about enslaved Africans who contended with smallpox epidemics, municipal health regulations, and compulsory medical treatments during and after their transatlantic journeys to the Caribbean region. The book transcends and troubles imperial boundaries to examine the interconnected histories of enslaved African’s social lives, disease, and medicine in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British territories between roughly 1500 and 1800. Mitchell is also developing a digital history project based on her research database of over 300 smallpox outbreaks. Mitchell’s publications include a chapter in the edited volume Medicine and Healing in the Age of Slavery and forthcoming articles in The William and Mary Quarterly and The Journal of the Early Republic. Her essays have appeared in The Atlantic: Ideas and Black Perspectives. She has also co-authored publications about the history of race and medicine. Mitchell completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and earned her Ph.D. at New York University. She has received fellowships from Ford Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Huntington Library, and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Follow her on Twitter @byeliseam.

Jennifer L. Morgan is Professor of History in the department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University where she also serves as Chair.  She is the author of the prize-winning Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (Duke University Press, 2021); and of Laboring Women: Gender and Reproduction in the Making of New World Slavery (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).  She is the the co-editor of Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in America (University of Illinois Press, 2016).  Her research examines the intersections of gender and race in in the Black Atlantic. Her recent journal articles include “Partus Sequitur Ventrem: Law, Race, and Reproduction in Colonial Slavery,” in Small Axe; “Accounting for ‘The Most Excruciating Torment’: Trans-Atlantic Passages” in History of the Present and “Archives and Histories of Racial Capitalism” in Social Text. In addition to her archival work as an historian, Morgan has published a range of essays on race, gender, and the process of “doing history,” most notably “Experiencing Black Feminism” in Deborah Gray White’s edited volume Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (2007). Morgan serves as the Council Chair for the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture.  She is the past-Vice President of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and is a lifetime member of the Association of Black Women Historians.  She lives in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @ProfJLMorgan.

Barbara Smith is an author, activist, and independent scholar who has played a groundbreaking role in opening up a national cultural and political dialogue about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender. She was among the first to define an African American women’s literary tradition and to build Black women’s studies and Black feminism in the United States. She has been politically active in many movements for social justice since the 1960s. Barbara and her colleagues in the Combahee River Collective are credited with originating the term “identity politics,” defining it as an inclusive political analysis for contesting the interlocking oppressions of race, gender, class and sexuality. Now widely referred to as “intersectionality,” this analytical approach has shaped scholarship, teaching, and progressive activism. Barbara’s work has been a source of guidance and inspiration to individuals and movements committed to battling both external and internal oppression. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith was published in 2014 by SUNY Press. Follow her on Twitter @TheBarbaraSmith.

Tiana U. Wilson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History with a portfolio in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include Black Women’s Internationalism, Black Women’s Intellectual History, Women of Color Organizing, and Third World Feminism. At UT, she led her department’s Anti-Racism Action Committee (2020-2021), served as the 2019-2020 Graduate Research Assistant for the Institute for Historical Studies, and was a research fellow for the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy between the years of 2017-2019. In the broader intellectual community, Tiana is the graduate student representative for the Association of Black Women Historians. Her dissertation has been supported by the Center for Engaged Scholarship, Sallie Bingham Center, Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Smith College Libraries, and the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice. Follow her on Twitter @PhenomenalTiana.

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