Online Forum–The Significance of the Black Family in the US

African American Family, Spartanburg County, South Carolina, September 12, 1928 (National Archives Catalog)

November 14-21, 2022

Black Perspectivesthe award-winning blog of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) is hosting an online forum on the theme “The Significance of the Black Family in the US.” Organized by Holly Pinheiro, the online forum brings together scholars to contextualize the importance of Black families as historical figures who fought for a more inclusive and diverse society. The online forum begins on Monday, November  14th, and concludes on Monday, November 21st. It will feature contributions from Kiana Knight, Colita Fairfax, Xavier Aubrey Spencer, DJ Polite, Paula C. Austin, Catherine Nelson, Donna Payne Wilson, and Tyler Parry.  During the online forum, Black Perspectives will publish new blog posts every day at 6:00AM 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 roundtable.

About the Organizer

Holly Pinheiro received his doctoral degree from the University of Iowa. He is an Assistant Professor of African American History at Furman University in the History Department. His research focuses on the intersectionality of race, gender, and class in the military from 1850 through the 1930s. Counter to the national narrative which championed the patriotic manhood of soldiering from the Civil War through the 1930s, his research reveals that African American veterans and their families’ military experience were much more fraught. Economic and social instability introduced by military service resonated for years and even generations after soldiers left the battlefield. He has published articles in edited volumes and academic journals, in and outside of the United States. His manuscript, The Families’ Civil War: Northern African American Soldiers and The Fight for Racial Justice, will be released in the summer of 2022. It is under contract with The University of Georgia Press in the UnCivil Wars Series. The manuscript highlights how racism, in and outside of military service, impacted the bodies, economies, family structures, and social spaces of African Americans long after the war ended. He has also started preliminary work for a new monograph that will examine all Pennsylvania born soldiers who trained at Camp William Penn. Follow him on Twitter @PhUsct.


About the Participants

Kiana Knight graduated Summa Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University with a B.A. in history. As an undergrad, she participated in research programs at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (MURAP) at UNC-Chapel Hill. Kiana then received her M.A. in history from the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently working on her PhD in Africana Studies at Brown University. Her research interests include the black southern experience, black transnational feminisms, black nationalism, and the African Diaspora. Kiana’s most recent research endeavor is the Pittsburgh Crafting Democratic Futures Project where she conducts oral histories that discuss Black Pittsburgh. Follow her on Twitter @kianamknight.



 A native of Richmond, Virginia, Colita Nichols Fairfax Ph.D., is Professor, Robert C. Nusbaum Honors College Senior Faculty Fellow, and Inaugural Faculty Fellow with the Center for African American Public Policy at Norfolk State University. She co-chaired the city of Hampton 2019 Commemorative Commission, and was on the African Arrival Committee of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s American Evolution Commission. These Commissions were tasked with planning and implementing the 400th recognition of African people landing in the English settler colony. Dr. Fairfax is a board member on the city of Hampton History Museum Foundation. She is president of the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation. Since 2016, she has served on the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Historic Resources, where she has served as vice-chairman and chairman. Since 2020, she serves on the Commonwealth of Virginia Commission for Historical Statues in the U. S. Capitol. This Commission is tasked with removing the defender of human bondage, Robert E. Lee, which shall be replaced with Barbara Johns. She edited The African Experience in Colonial Virginia: Essays on the 1619 Arrival and the Legacy of Slavery (2021, McFarland and Company). Her Ph.D. is in African American Studies from Temple University. Follow her on Twitter at @clnfairfax.


 Xavier Aubrey Spencer is the author of The Family Legacy of Denmark Vesey, a transgenerational true story of race, love, violence and perseverance in the American South. He is a licensed independent marriage and family therapist (IMFT,) American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Clinical fellow and certified sex therapist by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). He has a private practice based in Northeast Ohio. He studied Human Development at Pacific Oaks College and went on to receive his Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy from Northwestern University, Center for Psychological and Family Studies at The Family Institute. Along with extensive clinical training at The Family Institute’s, Bettie D. Harris Family and Child Clinic in Evanston and Chicago, Illinois. Xavier holds a post-graduate certificate in Sex Therapy from University of Michigan Sexual Health Program. In graduate school, he was the recipient of the Minority Fellowship Award from AAMFT for his commitment and dedication to the professional practice of marriage and family therapy.

DJ Polite is an Assistant Professor of History at Augusta University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in American studies from Williams College, a master’s in education from CUNY-Brooklyn College and his Ph.D. in history from the University of South Carolina. Prior work includes teaching special education in a public charter high school, and as a historic guide and interpreter for home museums in South Carolina. His research looks primarily on the mutually reinforcing growth of U.S. Jim Crow policies and empire in the Caribbean, particularly Puerto Rico. It explores the ways that the solidification of both relied on each other and cemented secondary citizenship status for African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and especially women of both groups. Follow him on Twitter @Polite_DPJ.



Paula C. Austin is Assistant Professor at Boston University and author of Coming of Age in Jim Crow DC: Navigating the Politics of Everyday Life (New York University Press, 2019).





Catherine Nelson was born and raised in Washington, DC.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from Nyack College in Nyack, NY and spent the majority of her career working for IBM Corporation, primarily in the Finance department, where she achieved the position of Internal Audit Manager. Catherine also spent four years in Tokyo, Japan as assistant to the treasurer for IBM Asia/Pacific Group. She is currently retired and lives in Virginia Beach, VA.






Donna Payne Wilson is one of the two daughters of Myron Rudolph Ross Jr.’s sister, Doris.  Donna and her sister Robyn were born and raised in Washington, DC.  Donna graduated from Georgetown University Law Center and is a practicing attorney in Metropolitan DC; Robyn graduated from Harvard with an MBA, works in finance, and lives in Florida.  While working in New Jersey, Donna had the privilege of living with Myron’s widow, Lee G. Ross.






Tyler Parry is an Assistant Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He received a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. He serves in a number of capacities within the profession, including as an editor for H-Afro-Am and as Book Review Editor for Black Perspectives. His research examines slavery in the Americas, the African diaspora, and the historical memory of slavery in the United States. His first book, Jumping the Broom: The Surprising Multicultural Origins of a Black Wedding Ritual (University of North Carolina Press, 2020) is the first definitive examination of the “broomstick wedding,” a popular marital tradition usually associated with Black Americans. Additionally, he is co-authoring a book with historian Charlton W. Yingling that examines how Europeans and Euro-Americans used canines to attack and subordinate Black people who resisted slavery and oppression.

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