Online Forum–Black Women’s Biography

Shirley Chisholm State Park, Brooklyn, NY, Mural by Danielle Mastrion, March 26, 2021 (Flickr/ Scott Beale)
May 31, 2022 to June 7, 2022

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) is hosting an online forum on the theme “Black Women’s Biography.” Organized by Professors Ashley Farmer and Tanisha Ford, the online forum brings together scholars from different professional experiences to discuss their process of writing about Black women’s thoughts, fears, loves, and desires in creative and interesting ways. The contributors offer insight into the nuances and challenges of constructing biographies on a range of Black women across time, space, political ideologies, and conceptions of race.  The online forum begins on Tuesday, May 31st, and concludes on Tuesday, June 7th. Drs. Farmer and Ford introduce the series with a gripping piece, followed by five essays from Drs. Daina Ramey Berry, Anastasia Curwood, K.T. Ewing, Tiffany N. Florvil, and Sherry Johnson.

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 Organizers

Tanisha C. Ford is Professor of History and Biography and Memoir at The Graduate Center, CUNY. Ford is the author of Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul (UNC Press, 2015), which won the OAH Liberty Legacy Foundation Award for Best Book on Civil Rights History, Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (St. Martin’s, 2019), and co-author (with Deborah Willis) of Kwame Brathwaite: Black is Beautiful (Aperture, 2019). Her scholarship has been published in the Journal of Southern HistoryNKA: Journal of Contemporary African Artthe Black Scholar, and QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking. She writes regularly for public audiences, with stories in the Atlantic, New York Times, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar, among others. Ford is working on a new book-length study, Our Secret Society: America’s Forgotten Black Power Brokers, which examines the webs of money, power, and influence that financially bolstered the Civil Rights movement.

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.

About the Participants

Daina Ramey Berry is the Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History and chair of the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a Fellow of Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and the George W. Littlefield Professorship in American History and the former Associate Dean of The Graduate School. Berry is the award-winning author and editor of six books including The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (2017), A Black Women’s History of the United States (2020), co-authored with Kali Nicole Gross.

Anastasia Curwood is Professor of History, Director of African American and Africana Studies, and Director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies at the University of Kentucky. She has written Stormy Weather: Middle-Class African American Marriages Between the Two World Wars (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) and Shirley Chisholm: Champion of Black Feminist Power Politics (forthcoming University of North Carolina Press, 2022).

K.T. Ewing is an Associate Professor of History at Tennessee State University. She is an alum of Xavier University of Louisiana and a third generation HBCU graduate dedicated to preserving Black cultural and intellectual spaces. Her research interests include Black history, women and gender studies, sexuality, and the influence of blues culture in American society. Her current book project, Remember My Name: Alberta Hunter and the Two-Faced Archive, is a biography examining the life of Alberta Hunter, a twentieth-century blues and cabaret singer from Memphis, Tennessee.

Tiffany N. Florvil is an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. Florvil has co-edited the volume, Rethinking Black German Studies: Approaches, Interventions and Histories (2018), and other articles and chapters. Her manuscript, Mobilizing Black Germany: Afro-German Women and the Making of a Transnational Movement (University of Illinois Press 2020) won the Waterloo Centre for German Studies First Book Prize in 2021. She is also the founder and an editor of the “Imagining Black Europe” book series at Peter Lang Press.

Sherry Johnson tells stories that engage memory and Black writing between Canada and the United States. She is a writer, researcher, and scholar of literature, particularly at the intersection of Black women’s lives and their writing, African American visual culture, and film studies. Currently an associate professor and Director of the graduate program in English at Grand Valley State University, she teaches courses in African American literature, Multicultural American literature, neo-slave narratives, and critical approaches to literary study. Her work appears in the American Studies JournalAfrican American ReviewDictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American BiographyMELUS and other publications.

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