Why I Read ‘Black Perspectives’

A 2008 demonstration in Paris (Photo: looking4poetry, Flickr).

I live and conduct my research in Europe—Spain, to be precise. Due to serious health issues, I was forced to take early retirement from my academic teaching post in 2013. The research continues, however. Some of that requires visiting archives, but this is the twenty-first century and much takes place online. Madrid might just as well be Milwaukee, Lagos, or Canberra. I use online sources and resources all the time and Black Perspectives is one that I turn to again and again—it is one of my first ‘visits’ every morning when I turn on my computer.

It is indeed a “crucial online space” and a broad enough church that a literary scholar such as myself can find timely updates, material and debates on what is happening in the field of diaspora, race, and African American studies. I can follow round tables and discussions on Ta-Nehisi Coates and U.S. racial history; gender and Black Power; slavery and abolitionism. The list is both extensive and comprehensive.

Black Perspectives has brought me into contact with scholars whose research overlaps with my own—the African diaspora and race consciousness outside the U.S. Thus I was particularly excited to follow the recent blog series on Black Europe, especially Nick Jones’s post on “The Legacy and Representation of Blacks in Spain.” Likewise the recent posts on the latest scholarship and projects on the life and works of Langston Hughes, my own particular specialization. I learned of the planned two-part documentary on Hughes (I, too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled) through the interview with the driving force behind the project, Darren Canady and Randal Maurice Jelks. I was thrilled.

Black Perspectives is so much more than a blog. It is a rich, cutting-edge resource and I rely on it to keep me up-to-date with what is happening in the field. Even as a literary scholar, I need to remain abreast of the historical historiography in my field: the posts on slavery and black internationalism are crucial, for instance (I salute AAIHS for organizing the 2019 conference around the theme of “Black Internationalism – Then and Now”).

The continued publication of Black Perspectives is not so much necessary as vital to a community of scholars that reaches far beyond the U.S. I end how I began, by stressing my location: non-U.S., non-America. The miracle of technology allows me to transcend the particularity of that place (Europe, Spain) even as it allows me to position myself precisely from that place and enter into dialogue with other places. Black Perspectives helps me get there. Thank you.

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Isabel Soto

Isabel Soto is a retired professor from the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid, Spain. Her research includes critical race, diaspora, and transatlantic studies and non-Anglophone constructions of the Afro-Atlantic. She is currently co-editing a special issue for Atlantic Studies on Teju Cole and working on a monograph on Langston Hughes tentatively entitled 'Narratives of Entanglement: Langston Hughes, Race, and Spain.'