‘African American Studies and The Lessons of Experience’

The experiential effects of American racism–the continual lived experiences of racial insult, injustice, and the denial of equal citizenship–led to concerted efforts on the part of African American scholars to pursue the study of their people through multiple academic venues and disciplinary perspectives. Joined by sympathetic white scholars in the decades ahead, they developed a growing body of research that was, in turn, deployed in the real world as a weapon against Jim Crow. The reciprocal roles of academic work and on-the-ground activism appeared prominently on American campuses with the rise of Black Studies in the 1960s and 1970s. These roles remain conjoined in new ways in the twenty-first century.

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is also serving in her last year as the chair of the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard, having held this position since 2006. Prior to coming to Harvard in 1993, Professor Higginbotham was a tenured member of the Department of History at the University of Pennsylvania. She has enjoyed many years as a teacher, beginning her career as a public school teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in Washington, DC, before moving to the university setting. She has also taught at Dartmouth College and the University of Maryland, as well as holding visiting professorships at New York University and Princeton University. At the special invitation of Duke University, she taught at the Duke Law School in academic year 2010-2011 as the inaugural John Hope Franklin Professor of American Legal History.

 

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

 

“In the new beginning was The Word.
And The Word was with Mother and Father.
And The Word was absence…”

Born in Haiti during the brutal Duvalier dictatorship, Edwidge Danticat – whose parents moved to the United States when she was a child, leaving her in the care of relatives – discovered The Word at the foot of family storytellers and in the books of French language writers.  As a child, she watched that mixed literary heritage upset as well as comfort her neighbors and countrymen.  The staging of an Albert Camus play following a political murder was one of its most striking examples.

Inspired by Camus’ landmark essay “Create Dangerously” and his definition of art as “a revolt against everything fleeting and unfinished in the world,” Danticat’s lecture will focus on her experiences, and the experiences of other immigrant artists, living and working – culturally, linguistically and politically – between several sometimes violent and unfriendly worlds.

Sponsored jointly by the Department of African American Studies and Princeton University Press, the Toni Morrison Lectures spotlight the new and exciting work of scholars and writers who have risen to positions of prominence both in academe and in the broader world of letters.

The lectures are published in book form by Princeton University Press and celebrate the expansive literary imagination, intellectual adventurousness and political insightfulness that characterize the writing of Toni Morrison.

From Ferguson to Flint: Race, Neoliberalism, and Black Politics Today

The annual Reflections on African American Studies lecture offers an opportunity for the Princeton community to reflect on the current and future direction of the field of African American Studies. Its aim is to bring scholars who are thinking at the cutting edge of the discipline and who are taking up vexing questions about its past, current, and future trajectories. The lecture exemplifies the role of the department as a model for African American Studies for the 21st century.

Professor Cathy Cohen will be the fourth individual to deliver the Reflections on African American Studies lecture.

Cathy J. Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and chair of the department. She has served as the Deputy Provost for Graduate Education and is the former Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. Cohen is the author of two books: Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press 2010) and The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University of Chicago Press 1999) and co-editor with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (NYU, 1997). Her work has been published in numerous journals and edited volumes including the American Political Science Review, GLQ, NOMOS, and Social Text. Cohen is principal investigator of two major projects: The Black Youth Project and the Mobilization, Change and Political and Civic Engagement Project. Her general field of specialization is American politics, although her research interests include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements.

You can follow Professor Cohen on Twitter: @cathyjcohen

Past Speakers

Richard Powell
“African American Studies’ Visual Turn: Souls Illustrated”

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
“African American Studies and the Lessons of Experience”

Martha Biondi
“The Black Revolution on Campus”

Standing on the Rough Side of the Mountain: Honoring Lillian E. Smith

How to Address the Persistence of Racial Inequality and Conflict in the 21st Century

Professor Imani Perry’s talk (below) is part of Piedmont College‘s 2015 Lillian E. Smith Symposium on Arts & Social Change which took place on Saturday, March 14, 2015

About Lillian Smith

Lillian Eugenia Smith was born in Jasper, Florida in 1897.  When her father’s Florida businesses failed in 1915, the Smith family came to Rabun County, Georgia, where her father had recently acquired property on Screamer Mountain and where he opened a summer camp for girls.  At first Lillian worked with her family to create the camp, but with her father’s blessing, she soon became the owner and director of Laurel Falls Camp for Girls.  This institution continued until 1949 and developed quite a reputation for being a progressive and well-rounded camp for young women, not only throughout the South, but across the country.

Lillian Smith emerged in the 1940s at the forefront of the Southern debate on segregation, where she was at least a decade ahead of other white liberals and stood virtually alone in calling for an immediate end to segregation laws and practices.  Meanwhile, she was developing her talents as a fiction-writer.  Her 1944 debut novel, Strange Fruit, was about a secret interracial love affair in a small Georgia town.  In 1949 she published Killers of the Dream, a brilliant psychological and autobiographical work warning against the evils of segregation.  Before her death in 1966, Smith would go on to publish several more books, fiction and nonfiction, and numerous articles and essays on social justice and racial equality, all of which were written from her home on Screamer Mountain.

Books by Lillian Smith:

Strange Fruit  1944
Killers of the Dream  1949
The Journey  1954
Now Is the Time  1955
One Hour  1959
Memory of a Large Christmas  1962
Our Faces, Our Words  1964
The Winner Names the Age: A Collection of Writings  1978
How Am I To Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith (edited by Margaret Rose Gladney)  1993

Chicago, Race and Participatory Politics

Nelson Mandela famously said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” But what are the best strategies for our place and time? This annual lecture in partnership with the Spencer Foundation presents exemplary research on education, broadly conceived. With a focus on investigating ways that education can be improved, the work presented is both daring and practical. Join Cathy Cohen, professor of political science at the University of Chicago and author of “Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics,” as she discusses the Black Youth Project, what it reveals about black Americans’ experience, and the political repercussions of these findings.

This annual lecture recognizes a generous multiyear grant from the Spencer Foundation, which seeks both to support and disseminate exemplary research about education, broadly conceived.

This program was recorded on October 26, 2014 as part of the 25th Anniversary Chicago Humanities Festival, Journeys: http://chf.to/2014Journeys

See other CHF events: http://chicagohumanities.org