Online Forum–Hip Hop at 50

The Sugar Hill Gang performing at the Tramlines Festival, 2015 (Flickr)
August 14, 2023 to August 25, 2023

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum in honor of the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop music and culture. The two-week online forum brings together scholars and artists to discuss the origins, development, and impact of Hip Hop in the United States and throughout the African diaspora. The forum begins on Monday, August 14, and concludes on Friday, August 25, 2023. It features interviews with Bakari Kitwana and Mark Anthony Neal as well as essays by Mickell Carter; Alyssa Sepinwall; Antoine Johnson; Charles Allen Ross; Eva Bohler; Christopher Rounds; and Victor Ultra Omni.

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/X or @AAIHS (@AAIHS23) on Instagram; 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.

Featured Interviews

An internationally known cultural critic, journalist, activist, and thought leader in the area of hip-hop, youth culture, and Black political engagement, Bakari Kitwana is the Executive Director of Rap Sessions, which for the last fourteen years has conducted over 150 townhall meetings around the nation on difficult dialogues facing the hip-hop and millennial generations. He is the collaborating writer for pioneering hip-hop artist Rakim’s new book Sweat The Technique: Revelations on Creativity From The Lyrical Genius (Amistad, 2019) and the 2019-2020 Nasir Jones HipHop Fellow at the W.E.B. Dubois Research Institute / Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. The former Editor-in-Chief of The Source magazine, where he wrote and edited hundreds of articles on hip-hop, youth culture, politics and national affairs, Kitwana co-founded the first ever National Hip-Hop Political Convention. The gathering brought over 4000 18-29 year-olds to Newark, NJ in 2004 to create and endorse a political agenda for the hip-hop generation. Kitwana is the author of Why White Kids Love Hip-Hop and co-editor (with David Orr, Andrew Gumbel and William Becker) of the forthcoming Democracy Unchained: How to Rebuild Government For the People (The New Press, 2020). His groundbreaking 2002 book The Hip-Hop Generation popularized the expression “the hip-hop generation” and has been adopted as a coursebook in classrooms at over 100 college and universities. Kitwana has been Editorial Director of Third World Press, a senior media fellow at The Jamestown Project, Artist-in-Residence at the Center for the Study of Race Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago, and has served on the organizing committee for the 2013 Black Youth Project convening that launched the millennial Black activist group BYP100.

Mark Anthony Neal is the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of African & African American Studies and Chair of the Department of African & African American Studies at Duke University where he offers courses on Black Masculinity, Popular Culture, and Digital Humanities, including signature courses on Michael Jackson & the Black Performance Tradition, and The History of Hip-Hop, which he co-teaches with Grammy Award Winning producer 9th Wonder (Patrick Douthit). He is the author of several books including What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1999), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002) and Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (2013).  The 10th Anniversary edition of Neal’s New Black Man was published in February of 2015 by Routledge. Neal is co-editor of That’s the Joint: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (Routledge), now in its second edition. Additionally Neal host of the video webcast Left of Black, which is produced in collaboration with the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke. You can follow him on Twitter at @NewBlackMan and IG at @BookerBBBrown.

Featured Writers 

Mickell Carter is a doctoral student in the department of Africana Studies at Brown University. Her research interests include Black Internationalism, 20th-Century Social Movements, and the intersections between culture and politics. Her current project examines linkages between Black men’s style during the Black Power Movement, Pan-Africanism, and masculinity. Mickell has worked on several public history projects such as the Bloody Sunday Oral History project where she has interviewed Bloody Sunday Foot Soldiers and document their experiences. Mickell has also co-produced a documentary about the Civil Rights Movement in her hometown, Columbus, GA. She has written for several venues including: Black Perspectives, the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project’s Warbler newsletter, the American Historical Association’s Perspectives, and the Washington Post. She is also a host of the New Books Network in African American Studies podcast. Prior to pursuing her PhD, Mickell taught high school social studies in Columbus, GA. 

Antoine S. Johnson is a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of the History of Medicine and 2024 Assistant Professor of African American and African Studies at the University of California, Davis. His research interests include race in medicine, anti-Black racism in medicine, and Black popular culture. He is currently working on a book manuscript on the Black AIDS epidemic and Black AIDS activism in the Bay Area. He is from Oakland, California and earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco in the History of Health Sciences.

Victor Ultra Omni (They/Them) is a PhD candidate at Emory University in the department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Their dissertation focuses on a historical treatment of the house-structured ballroom culture in New York City from 1972-1992. Their work is published or forthcoming in Trans Studies Quarterly (TSQ), The Black Scholar, Diagolo,and the textbook Feminist Studies: Foundations, Conversations, Applications. Victor earned a Bachelor of Arts in Africana Studies with the highest honors from the Claremont Colleges in Southern California, where they held the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship. Their undergraduate thesis “Shade and Survival: A Neo-Slave Narrative of Pioneer Kevin Ultra Omni” deployed the analytic of maroonage to theorize a counter-historiography of the 1980s ballroom scene in New York City.  Their research interests include the house and ballroom scene, Black Feminist theory, Trans Studies, and Black Marxism. More broadly, Victor is interested in the burgeoning formation of Black Trans Studies.

Charles Allen Ross is a doctoral candidate in American Studies and Culture at Washington State University. Primarily in his work, Ross studies the Black Radical Tradition and its aesthetic, and the production of Black art. The title of his dissertation is It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop, It’s Religion: A Block Party for Reimagining Black Life In and Out of the Wake– a textual based analysis examining the performances of Erykah Badu, Dead Prez, and Mos Def at Dave Chappell’s 2004 Block Party. To learn more about Charles and his work you can check out his website or follow him on Twitter @Rosscharles03.

Christopher Rounds is an Assistant Professor of History at South Carolina State University. He studies issues of race and ethnicity throughout American history, with a specialization in African-American history, and a research focus on the long civil rights movement. He is especially interested in how the legacy of the African-American freedom struggle is understood and harnessed by activists of the 21st-century, and how that is manifested in contemporary American life, from the protests of Colin Kapernick to the enduring popular-culture relevancy of Malcolm X. Dr. Rounds has previously taught at Winthrop University (2007-2010), Allen University (2011-2021), Claflin University (2018-2021), and Augusta University (2021-2022). Born and raised in New York, Dr. Rounds has lived in South Carolina for 20 years. He lives in Columbia, SC with his wife, daughter, and two dogs.

Alyssa Goldstein Sepinwall is Professor of History at California State University San Marcos. She earned a B.A. in intellectual history and political philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in history from Stanford University. Her research specialties include the French and Haitian Revolutions, modern Haitian history, Slavery and Film, French colonialism, French-Jewish history, history and video games, and the history of gender. Her newest book, Slave Revolt on Screen: The Haitian Revolution in Film and Video Games (which received the Honorable Mention for the 2021 HSA biennial Book Prize, Haitian Studies Association and was named a CHOICE Top 10 Editors’ Pick), was published in June 2021 by the University Press of Mississippi. Her previous works include The Abbé Grégoire and the French Revolution: The Making of Modern Universalism (UC Press, 2005; released in paperback, 2021) and Haitian History: New Perspectives (Routledge, 2012). Sepinwall is the 2023 recipient of the California State University’s top honor for teaching, the systemwide Wang Family Excellence Award for Outstanding Faculty Teaching. She is also a past winner of CSUSM’s Harry E. Brakebill Outstanding Professor Award (the university’s top honor for faculty, 2014), as well as of the CSUSM President’s Award for Innovation in Teaching (2004).

Eva Bohler is an Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach. She holds a PhD in Africology and African American Studies from Temple University. Her research interests include the philosophical thought of Howard Thurman, the political activism of Africana women, and Harlem Renaissance literature. Dr. Bohler’s dissertation was an Afrocentric analysis of the philosophies of Howard Thurman, a theologian and Civil Rights leader. She evaluated his philosophies and examined what was compatible with Afrocentricity. This research inspired Dr. Bohler to look at political movements and Africana womanism, to understand the role of African women during the Civil Rights movement. Dr. Bohler received her Ph.D. at Temple University in 2021. Before teaching at Cal State, Long Beach, she worked as an adjunct professor at John Jay College in New York City, teaching Race and Ethnicity in America.

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Comments on “Online Forum–Hip Hop at 50

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    hi i really love what you guys are doing! any way I can help support the movement please let me know

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