One is off to law school. Another has joined the staff of Princeton’s Office of Religious Life. Another will be teaching art to secondary school students in New York City. These students and seven of their peers started at Princeton thinking they were going to major in one thing — math or molecular biology, for example — and all changed to African American studies.
The American Academy of Religion (AAR) has selected the 2018 recipients of the Awards for Excellence in the Study of Religion and the Best First Book in the History of Religions. This annual competition recognizes new scholarly publications that make significant contributions to the study of religion. The awards honor books of distinctive originality, intelligence, creativity, and importance—books that affect decisively how religion is examined, understood, and interpreted.
Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion: Textual Studies
Wallace D. Best, Princeton University Langston's Salvation: American Religion and the Bard of Harlem
NYU Press, 2017
Informed by ethnography and cultural theory, Langston’s Salvation is elegantly written and may well inspire a vigorous reclamation of Hughes as a canonical religious author.
As part of the Campus Iconography Committee (CIC), the Princeton History Working Group (PHWG) works to create visual cues on campus that tell nuanced interpretations of Princeton University’s history. PHWG’s work brings to light some of the University’s lesser-known histories in order to build a more complete narrative of Princeton’s past. Reintroducing complexity and nuance regarding race, gender and other identities into the narrative history of Princeton can help Princeton become a more inclusive place for members of the University community. PHWG is an interdepartmental advisory group composed of students, staff and faculty, and collaborates with a number of University centers, departments and offices, as well as community organizations and partners. PHWG initiatives include both temporary and permanent projects. They take a variety of forms, including exhibits, historical markers, walking tours and orientation programming.
Professor Tera Hunter, a professor of history and African American studies at Princeton, has been awarded the Mary Nickliss Prize in U.S. Women’s and/or Gender History from the Organization of American Historians (OAH) for her 2017 book, “Bound in Wedlock: Slave and Free Black Marriage in the Nineteenth Century.” Hunter researched court records, legal documents and personal diaries to illustrate the constraints that slavery placed on intimate relationships. Her own great-great-grandparents, Ellen and Moses Hunter, were enslaved, freed and then married during Reconstruction. The Nickliss Prize is given for the most original book in U.S. women’s and/or gender history, and it acknowledges the generations of women whose opportunities were constrained by the historical circumstances in which they lived. The award was presented to Hunter on April 14 at the 2018 OAH Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.
The Black impossible is at once about continuing to live and resist in the face of the debilitating policies of modernity (impossible to do, but nevertheless done), yet also about the seeming impossibility of ever justliving. The Black impossible draws together modes of cultural responses to the ethos of life and living in the face of practices of discipline and death. On the fiftieth anniversary of Black Studies, it asks us to bring together the critical methodologies and creative practices of Black Study to bear on the now and the future. The second biannual conference of the African American Studies Department at Princeton University will explore the contemporary cultures of the Black impossible. This conference seeks to bring together intellectuals, artists, and organizers working across many different disciplines, mediums, and movements that speak to the cultures and the impossibility of Black life in the U.S. and abroad.
The annual James Baldwin Lecture series was launched March 29, 2006 with the inaugural lecture presented by Kwame Anthony Appiah, the Princeton University Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy and the University Center for Human Values. The series aims to celebrate the work of Princeton faculty and to provide an occasion for the intellectual community to reflect on the issue of race and American democracy. The lectures also honor the work of the late essayist James Baldwin, one of America’s most powerful cultural critics. Professor Brian Eugenio Herrera, who will deliver the 2018 lecture, is Assistant Professor of Theater at Princeton University where his work, both academic and artistic, examines the history of gender, sexuality and race within and through U.S. popular performance. He is author of The Latina/o Theatre Commons 2013 National Convening: A Narrative Report (HowlRound, 2015) and Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance (Michigan, 2015), which was awarded the George Jean Nathan Prize for Dramatic Criticism.
Every summer, Princeton University students travel overseas for unique six-week courses to explore the international dimensions of their academic interests. This year, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies will launch four new Global Seminars — including “Japan and Black America: A Long Road of Discovery” in Kyotonabe, Japan, with Imani Perry, the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies. The seminar will examine the abundant and complex cultural sharing, borrowing and exchange between Japanese and Black American cultures. “In jazz, hip hop, manga and fashion, to name just a few areas, [there are] many examples of a history of cultural flows and borrowing between Japan and Black America,” said Perry. “I am curious about the social, global-political and aesthetic foundations of this flow. This course is an opportunity to explore these connections.”
The Paul Hair Prize is presented in odd-numbered years to recognize the best critical edition or translation into English of primary source materials on Africa published during the preceding two years. The award is administered by the Association for the Preservation and Publication of African Historical Sources (APPAHS). It is announced at the African Studies Association Annual Meeting. The 2017 prize has been awarded to The Life Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros: A Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman, edited and translated by Wendy Laura Bulcher and Michael Kleiner. Professor Belcher is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and African American Studies at Princeton University. Her co-translator is the historian Michael Kleiner.
Tera W. Hunter’s To ‘Joy My Freedom: Black Women’s Lives and Labors after the Civil War has had an immeasurable impact on a number of dynamic overlapping areas of inquiry including black feminist history, African American Studies, Southern History and Labor History. The anniversary of its 1997 publication presents a unique opportunity for a forward-looking consideration of the generative dynamism of these fields, generously hosted by the University of Virginia, December 1-2, 2017. The book's crucial interventions, innovative methods and eloquent prose continue to inform and inspire intersectional studies in these and other fields. This intimate symposium invites scholars to reflect upon Hunter’s pivotal intervention through presentations of their own in-progress work, and insights on new directions in black feminist scholarship.
Jordan Thomas, of Newark, New Jersey, is concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and is also earning certificates in Portuguese language and culture and African American Studies. At Oxford, he plans to pursue an M.Phil. in Evidence-Based Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation. Thomas’ senior thesis focuses on the scope of school-based support services the Newark Public Schools District (NPS) offers pregnant and parenting teens. “Specifically, this study aims to assess whether there is a gap between the standards and best practices established nationally and the actual services provided in the district,” Thomas said. He has firsthand experience with NPS, which represents over 40,000 students. He served as the student representative on the district’s advisory board in 2013-14, prior to coming to Princeton.
During a conference Nov. 10-11 at Princeton University, scholars, students, poets and fans from across the country celebrated the life and legacy of Langston Hughes to mark the 50th anniversary of his death. The conference, which drew around 250 registered attendees, was hosted by the Department of African American Studies, with additional support from departments and programs across campus.
'Remembering Langston Hughes: His Art, Life, and Legacy Fifty Years Later' is a local and national forum on Langston Hughes. Since his death in May 1967, his art, particularly his poetry, has been invoked to articulate both some of the nation’s loftiest hopes and its deepest fears. The forum takes place over two days, November 10th and 11th, at Princeton University. The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is requested.
A committee of faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic administrators selected the winners from nominations by students, faculty colleagues and alumni. The awards were established in 1991 through a gift by Princeton alumni Lloyd Cotsen of the Class of 1950 and John Sherrerd of the Class of 1952 to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching by Princeton faculty members. Each winner receives a cash prize of $5,000, and their departments each receive $3,000 for the purchase of new books.
"The cancelation of my speaking events is a concession to the violent intimidation that was, in my opinion, provoked by Fox News. But I am releasing this statement to say that I will not be silent. Their side uses the threat of violence and intimidation because they cannot compete in the field of politics, ideas, and organizing. The true strength of our side has not yet been expressed in its size and breadth, and so they believe they are winning. We have to change this dynamic and begin to build a massive movement against racism, sexism, and bigotry in this country. I remain undaunted in my commitment to that project."
Uncovering the experiences of African American spouses in plantation records, legal and court documents, and pension files, Tera W. Hunter reveals the myriad ways couples adopted, adapted, revised, and rejected white Christian ideas of marriage. Setting their own standards for conjugal relationships, enslaved husbands and wives were creative and, of necessity, practical in starting and supporting families under conditions of uncertainty and cruelty
The primary mission of the Brodsky Center is to enable groundbreaking artists, both established and emerging, to create new work in paper and print. Artists-in-residence are invited to engage in one-on-one collaborations with the Brodsky Center’s master printers and papermakers. These experts and innovators make it possible for artists to translate their vision into a media that may be new to them. Since the Brodsky Center was conceived, diversity has been central to its mission and has consistently supported women and artists of color. The Brodsky Center is dedicated to the promotion of editions, paper and the printed image as central to contemporary art practice.
This spring several Princeton University graduate students pursuing graduate certification in the Department of African American Studies earned awards and fellowships to support continued research in African American Studies and intersecting fields. The graduate certificate provides an opportunity for graduate students to complement doctoral studies in their home department with coordinated interdisciplinary training in African American Studies.
Princeton University's trustees have approved recommendations to name West College, a prominent and central campus building, for the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, an emeritus faculty member at Princeton. Morrison taught creative writing at Princeton for many years. Each year the department hosts a lecture series in her honor.
The product of Arabindan-Kesson’s and Bagneris’s collaboration will be a coauthored book that will redefine early African diaspora art history by revealing and reconsidering the varying entanglements of artists of African descent—and the art histories they have often been written out of—and offer a model for breaking new ground in the field.
The Johns Hopkins for Institutional and Clinical Research sponsor the Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture Series with the goal of honoring the positive and global impact of the HeLa cells. The series reminds all scientists and researchers to engage research participants with respect, gratitude and clear communication. Professor Ruha Benjamin served as a the sixth honored speaker to keynote the lecture series. Benjamin's work, through papers and her book People's Science, engage directly with the life and legacy of Henrietta Lacks, the HeLa cells, and her family and descendants. Benjamin's talk puts forward an idea, and forewarns against, 'discriminatory design' -- that is, processes that are conceived of to serve people, yet do not include diverse perspectives in their planning and incubation.
Within the Rhodes community, I’ve met people from South Africa, Kenya, India, Jamaica, Trinidad, Canada and various other nations who have helped me think about race and social justice in a wider, global context. Outside of the Rhodes community, I’ve been welcomed into a black community with strong ties to countries in Africa and the Caribbean, many of which are former British colonies. I’ve found myself developing questions about empire and colonialism’s relationship to the creation and the persistence of racial stratification, and these questions must be addressed.
Eddie S. Glaude’s book Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award! The NAACP Image Award is an accolade presented by the American National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to honor outstanding people of color in film, television, music, and literature. Voting is now [...]
Princeton University senior Aaron Robertson has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Oxford. He is among the 32 American recipients of the prestigious fellowships, which fund two to three years of graduate study at Oxford. Robertson, of Redford, Michigan, is concentrating in Italian (in the Department of French and [...]
Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu won the African Studies Association Herskovits Prize for his book Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in 20th-Century Nigeria. The Melville J. Herskovits Award is an annual award given by the African Studies Association to the best scholarly work (including translations) on Africa published in English in the previous year and distributed in [...]
The next president will have to face growing economic precarity for a large portion of the American public. In fact, many other pressing issues — immigration, race, policing and incarceration, and gender equity — are shaped in some significant measure by the fact that substantial swaths of our population live in actual or near poverty conditions and face downward mobility and persistent under-employment. Not only does it mean that the American Dream has grown even more elusive, it drives competition, racial animus and resentment, underground economies and deep anxieties about masculinity and traditional manhood ideals.
The Board of Directors of Lannan Foundation announces the winner of this year’s Cultural Freedom Especially Notable Book Award: From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, written by Princeton University African American Studies professor and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. In From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistent structural inequality, including mass incarceration, housing discrimination, police violence, and unemployment. She argues that the emerging struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader movement for Black liberation. The Haymarket Books Press publication is in its fourth printing.
Chika Okeke-Agulu, associate professor of art and archaeology and African American studies, has been awarded the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism from the College Art Association (CAA) for his book Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in 20th-Century Nigeria (Duke University Press, 2015). The award, given for significant published art criticism that has appeared in publication in a one-year period, is named in honor of art critic and scholar Mather, who came to Princeton in 1910 from Johns Hopkins University as the first Marquand Professor of Art and Archaeology, and became the director of the Princeton University Art Museum in 1922. Okeke-Agulu accepted the award at the CAA annual convention on Feb. 3 in Washington, D.C.
Writer Jennifer Howard explores the early life and significant work of Professor Wendy Laura Belcher, and where the two intersect, in a feature profile, "A Broader Notion of African Literature," which appeared in the September 2015 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Belcher spent three years living in Ethiopia as an adolescent, and then six years in Ghana. Her first book, Honey From the Rock, was autobiographical in nature about her years spent in Africa. Later, earning a Ph.D in comparative literature from UCLA, Belcher's gaze returned to the places she lived as a youth, with sophisticated, potent and careful analyses that attract attention and increasing understanding of literature written by Africans, for Africans.
The 2015 - 2016 academic year is not yet half-way over, yet the year has already brought about much to recognize and celebrate. Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor released new books in the month of January, and Chika Okeke Agulu's recent book has won a major award. Ruha Benjamin has been awarded a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study, and April Peters has been promoted to Department manager. An entire campus community came together to celebrate the departmentalization that came about this year.
As Princeton faculty, we write in support of our students who are currently occupying the President's office and those who are supporting them across campus. These are difficult times. And there is a palpable sense that, even as we struggle to make Princeton a better institution, students of color, particularly black students, all too often find themselves on the margins of this university. They do not feel a sense of possession of "Old Nassau." So, they are voicing their frustration and have presented demands to the leadership of our community.
Each academic year, the Department of African American Studies selects postdoctoral fellows to spend a year at Princeton where they will use their expertise to write about race, as well as, instruct a departmental course for one semester. In addition, fellows are provided with private offices in the Department where they have opportunities to learn from and with their fellowship cohort and Princeton faculty.
Nell Painter's new course, Art School at African American Studies, combines actual making with art criticism. It is an examination of the circulation of contemporary art, particularly the of work of black artists, structured around fundamental art concepts such as line, color, illustration, abstraction, multiples, beauty, and meaning. Given the historical centrality in African American art of representations of black bodies, the course pays special attention to figuration and portraiture. Its aim is not to make skilled artists, but to provide a materials-based, tactile experience of art making and its evaluation.
The Ferguson is the Future symposium brought together scholars, activists and artists and asked: what stories about power, difference, and belonging fuel the social crises we face today? How does visionary fiction offer us models for creating new possible worlds? Can the combined insights and interventions of artists, activists, and scholars plot a different course [...]
"Princeton's outstanding faculty members in African American studies address cultural, social and political issues of urgent importance to our students, our nation and the world," President Christopher L. Eisgruber said. "By approving the establishment of a new Department of African American Studies, the trustees and the faculty of the University have provided Princeton's students with new opportunities for learning, and they have deepened our commitment to support scholarship of the highest quality in this vibrant field."