Online Forum: Shirley Graham Du Bois

Shirley Graham Du Bois (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute).

March 11-15, 2019

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), is hosting an online forum on Shirley Graham Du Bois (1896-1977). The forum on Graham Du Bois—published commemoratively to recognize the 42nd anniversary of her passing in March 1977—centers her intellectual and cultural production as an author, playwright, activist, Pan-Africanist, and Black radical. Contributors discuss personal connections to her and her son David Graham Du Bois, comment on her marriage to W. E. B. Du Bois and her role in crafting his legacy, and assess her books, essays, and journalistic writings on Black liberation. They show that while we know a great deal about her life and times there are exciting possibilities ahead to reinterpret and rediscover her importance and relevance in this historical moment. Collectively, the essays and poetry in this forum address a broad range of issues about which Shirley Graham Du Bois’s life and work intersected: African American history, Black radicalism, Communism, the surveillance state, decolonization, Pan-Africanism, Afro-Asia and Sino-Soviet relations, Black feminism, and literary studies.

Organized by Keisha N. Blain (University of Pittsburgh) and Phillip Luke Sinitiere (College of Biblical Studies), the forum will feature contributions from Bettina Aptheker (University of California, Santa Cruz), Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel (University of Michigan)Gerald Horne (University of Houston), Britt Rusert (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Phillip Luke Sinitiere (College of Biblical Studies) and Sandra Staton-Taiwo (Alabama State University).

The forum begins on Monday, March 11, 2019 and concludes on Friday, March 15. During the week of the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 5:30AM EST. Please follow Black Perspectives (@BlkPerspectives) and AAIHS (@AAIHS) on 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 forum.


About the Organizers

Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian of the 20th century United States with broad interdisciplinary interests and specializations in African American History, the modern African Diaspora, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She completed a PhD in History at Princeton University and currently teaches history at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include Black internationalism, radical politics, and global feminisms. She is the author of Set the World On Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) and co-editor of To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and Internationalism (University of Illinois Press, 2019); New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition (Northwestern University Press, 2018) and Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism and Racial Violence (University of Georgia Press, 2016). Her work has been published in several academic journals such as the Journal of Social History and Souls; and popular outlets including the Huffington PostThe Washington Postand The Feminist Wire. She is the current president of the African American Intellectual History Society and the Editor in Chief of The North Star. Follow her on Twitter @KeishaBlain.

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Phillip Luke Sinitiere is Professor of History at the College of Biblical Studies and a 2018-19 W. E. B. Du Bois Visiting Scholar at UMass Amherst. He is also a Sections Editor for The North Star. A scholar of American religious history and African American studies, his recent books are Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, The Crisis, and American History (2014), and Salvation with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity (2015). Sinitiere’s Du Bois scholarship includes the essays “Of Faith and Fiction: Teaching W. E. B. Du Bois and Religion” (2012), “Leadership for Democracy and Peace: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Legacy as a Pan-African Intellectual” (2014), “‘Outline of Report on Economic Condition of the Negroes in the State of Texas’: W. E. B. Du Bois’ 1935 Speech at Prairie View State College” (2017), “Making Material Memories: Transformative Moments in W. E. B. Du Bois’s Archive” (2018), and ““There must be no idle mourning”: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Legacy as a Black Radical Intellectual” (2019). In August 2019, Northwestern University Press will publish Sinitiere’s next book, Citizen of the World: The Late Career and Legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois.


About the Participants

Bettina Aptheker is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She holds the Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation Presidential Chair for Feminist Studies for 2017–20. She has published seven books, including a memoir, Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech, and Became a Feminist Rebel (2006), and The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis (2nd ed., 1999). She has published many scholarly articles, including “The Passion and Pageantry of Shirley Graham’s Opera Tom-Tom” (2016) and “Queer Dialectics/Feminist Interventions: Harry Hay and the Quest for a Revolutionary Politics” (2015). An activist for peace and social justice since the early 1960s and a major architect of the Feminist Studies Department at UCSC over a nearly forty-year career, she is now working on a book project, “Queering the History of the Communist Left in the United States,” based on extensive archival research and interviews. Her father, Herbert, was the literary executor of the W. E. B. Du Bois papers.


Annette K. Joseph-Gabriel is a scholar of francophone literature, culture, and politics. Her research focuses on race, gender, and citizenship in the French-speaking Caribbean, Africa, and France. She is currently an Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her book, Reimagining Liberation: How Black Women Transformed Citizenship in the French Empire is forthcoming from the University of Illinois Press’ New Black Studies Series. It examines black women’s articulations of citizenship through their work in anticolonial movements in Francophone Africa and the Antilles. Her articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals including Small Axe, Nouvelles Études Francophones, Slavery & Abolition, Eighteenth-Century Studies and The French Review. She is a recipient of the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics and is the managing editor of Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International. Follow her on Twitter @AnnetteJosephG.


Gerald Horne holds the John J. and Rebecca Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His research addresses racism, labor, white supremacy, black radicalism, black internationalism, civil rights, and film. He is the author of more than thirty books, including Negro Comrades of the Crown: African-Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. before Emancipation (2012), Black Revolutionary: William Patterson and the Globalization of the African American Freedom Struggle (2013), The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (2014), Paul Robeson: The Artist as Revolutionary (2016), The Rise and Fall of the Associated Negro Press: Claude Barnett’s Pan-African News and the Jim Crow Paradox (2017), and Facing the Rise Sun: African Americans, Japan, and the Rise of Afro-Asian Solidarity (2018).


Britt Rusert is Associate Professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (New York University Press, 2017) and co-editor of W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America (Princeton Architectural Press, 2018). Rusert received her Ph.D. in English and certificate in Feminist Studies from Duke University. Her research and teaching focus on black speculative fiction and visual cultures, slavery, science and technology studies, gender and sexuality, and critical theory. She is currently working on a study of William J. Wilson’s Afric-American Picture Gallery (1859), a text that imagines the first museum of Black art in the United States. With Adrienne Brown, she edited Du Bois’s fantasy story, “The Princess Steel,” for PMLAFollow her on Twitter @BrittRusert.


Phillip Luke Sinitiere is Professor of History at the College of Biblical Studies and a 2018-19 W. E. B. Du Bois Visiting Scholar at UMass Amherst. He is also a Sections Editor for The North Star. A scholar of American religious history and African American studies, his recent books are Protest and Propaganda: W. E. B. Du Bois, The Crisis, and American History (2014), and Salvation with a Smile: Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church, and American Christianity (2015). Sinitiere’s Du Bois scholarship includes the essays “Of Faith and Fiction: Teaching W. E. B. Du Bois and Religion” (2012), “Leadership for Democracy and Peace: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Legacy as a Pan-African Intellectual” (2014), “‘Outline of Report on Economic Condition of the Negroes in the State of Texas’: W. E. B. Du Bois’ 1935 Speech at Prairie View State College” (2017), “Making Material Memories: Transformative Moments in W. E. B. Du Bois’s Archive” (2018), and ““There must be no idle mourning”: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Legacy as a Black Radical Intellectual” (2019). In August 2019, Northwestern University Press will publish Sinitiere’s next book, Citizen of the World: The Late Career and Legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois.


Sandra Staton-Taiwo earned a doctorate in African American literature from Howard University in 2001. Dr. Staton-Taiwo has taught at several colleges, including Penn State York and Gettysburg College, and is presently a faculty member at Alabama State University. She has taught courses in English Composition, Black American Literature, poetry, the Harlem Renaissance, Black Aesthetics, African American Studies, and a seminar on W. E. B. Du Bois. Publications include essays about faculty of color, W. E. B. Du Bois’s literature, and Langston Hughes’s poetry. As a current resident of Montgomery, Alabama, which is near Lowndes County, she is working on a manuscript surrounding Du Bois’s 1906 sociological input in Lowndes County he transformed into literary output in his first novel, The Quest of the Silver FleeceHer new book, Broad Sympathies in a Narrow World: The Legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois (Broadside Lotus Press, 2018), is a collection of poems that reflects Staton-Taiwo’s exploration of and engagement with Du Bois’s personal and political lives.

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