This series is co-sponsored by the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

The Boston Seminar on African American History is an occasion for scholars as well as interested members of the public to discuss aspects of African American history from the colonial era to the present day. Now in its second year, this program meets a need that other local discussion series do not address, by focusing on historical scholarship and specifically the African American past.

 

Most seminar meetings revolve around the discussion of a pre-circulated paper. Sessions open with remarks from the essayist and an assigned commentator, after which the discussion is opened to the floor. Each session is followed by a reception with light refreshments.

 

Attendance is free and open to everyone. Subscribers who remit $25 for the year will receive early online access to any pre-circulated materials. Subscriptions also underwrite the cost of the series. Pre-circulated materials will be available to non-subscribers who have RSVP’d for a session on the day prior to the program. Subscribe to this seminar series and you will receive access to the seminar papers for SIX series: the Boston Seminar on African American History, the Pauline Maier Early American History Seminar, the Boston Seminar on Environmental History, the Boston Seminar on the History of Women, Gender, & Sexuality, the Boston Seminar on Modern American Society and Culture, and our new Seminar on Digital History. We recognize that topics frequently resonate across these four fields; now, mix and match the seminars that you attend!

Join the mailing list today by emailing seminars@masshist.org.

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the latest scholarship.Subscribe

October 2019
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//banner_draft_2.jpg African American History Seminar Talking About the N-Word: A Personal Social History* 10 October 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Elizabeth Pryor, Smith College Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law In the 1980s and 1990s, Black intellectuals increasingly refused to repeat the violent language ...

In the 1980s and 1990s, Black intellectuals increasingly refused to repeat the violent language wielded against them. Thus, they invented the “n” word phrase, placing the racist slur n***er at the center of debates over political correctness and Black cultural expression. By exploring the long history of African American protest against the n-word, this reflection examines how the surrogate phrase straddles Black radicalism on one hand and respectability politics on the other.

*Previously titled "'A New Game': The Invention of the N-Word Phrase"

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November 2019
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//banner_draft_2.jpg African American History Seminar Mary Church Terrell’s Intersectional Black Feminism 21 November 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Alison M. Parker, University of Delaware Kerri Greenidge, Tufts University Civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) highlighted the intersections of race and sex ...

Civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) highlighted the intersections of race and sex in black women’s lives. This paper focuses on Terrell’s critiques of the suffrage movement, the social purity movement, and the postbellum white nostalgia for “Black Mammies.” Terrell asserted black women’s right to be full citizens, to vote, and to be treated without violence and with respect.

This session is co-sponsored by the New England Biography Series.

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January 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg African American History Seminar “Increasing her Stock”: Two Harriets and the Louisiana Borderlands 16 January 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Rashauna Johnson, Dartmouth College Comment: Jen Manion, Amherst College This paper uses the sexual biographies of two enslaved women, both named Harriet, in Louisiana&rsquo ...

This paper uses the sexual biographies of two enslaved women, both named Harriet, in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes to explore the workings of intimacy and empire in the plantation South during its transition from borderlands to hub of King Cotton.

More
February 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg African American History Seminar Emancipation In America, Seen Through One Man's Dreadlocks 20 February 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Abigail Cooper, Brandeis University Comment: Kellie Carter Jackson, Wellesley College 1864. A ship leaves its New England port carrying a USCT regiment to fight Confederates on the ...

1864. A ship leaves its New England port carrying a USCT regiment to fight Confederates on the Louisiana front. But on the way, a showdown takes place when Pvt. John Green refuses his commanding officer's order to cut his hair, protesting that it was contrary to his religion. In the events that follow, a revealing picture of black self-assertion in the making of freedom emerges, one too often hidden by a Civil War master narrative. This paper tells John Green's story, and asks how we might look at emancipation differently when we view it through his dreadlocks.

More
March 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg African American History Seminar “Fighting the Dogs:” Fugitivity, Canine Hunters, and Slave Resistance in the Rural South 19 March 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Tyler D. Parry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas Comment: Harriet Ritvo, MIT As slavery expanded in the Americas, canine attacks were used as a particularly sadistic aspect of ...

As slavery expanded in the Americas, canine attacks were used as a particularly sadistic aspect of racist dehumanization. Through linked processes of breeding and training, slave hunters believed they had developed “natural” enemies between black people and the canines trained to hunt them. This paper investigates how fugitives responded to this interspecies violence by using various techniques of environmental resistance outside the plantation’s confines. By analyzing how fugitives used herbal combinations, waterways, and offensive weapons to subvert the canine's sensory advantage, this paper argues that enslaved communities should be understood as knowledge producers who studied their environments and used scientific awareness in their resistance.

More
April 2020
Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg African American History Seminar From Jobs and Freedom to Jobs and Opportunity: Andrew Young, Growth, and the Illusion of Job Creation 23 April 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Danielle Wiggins, California Institution of Technology Comment: Brenna Greer, Wellesley College This paper considers Atlanta mayor Andrew Young’s shifting ideas about job creation and ...

This paper considers Atlanta mayor Andrew Young’s shifting ideas about job creation and economic opportunity to investigate how Democrats abandoned their 1970s goal of full employment in favor of policies that promoted private sector job creation via economic growth in the 1980s. By conflating growth with opportunity, Andrew Young sought to stake a middle path between development interests and anti-poverty coalitions, between white and black voters, and between civil rights liberalism and supply-side liberalism. However, economic growth and its promise of opportunity proved to be an inadequate solution for the range of issues its proponents intended it to address.

More
More events
African American History Seminar Talking About the N-Word: A Personal Social History* 10 October 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Elizabeth Pryor, Smith College Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//banner_draft_2.jpg

In the 1980s and 1990s, Black intellectuals increasingly refused to repeat the violent language wielded against them. Thus, they invented the “n” word phrase, placing the racist slur n***er at the center of debates over political correctness and Black cultural expression. By exploring the long history of African American protest against the n-word, this reflection examines how the surrogate phrase straddles Black radicalism on one hand and respectability politics on the other.

*Previously titled "'A New Game': The Invention of the N-Word Phrase"

close

African American History Seminar Mary Church Terrell’s Intersectional Black Feminism 21 November 2019.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Alison M. Parker, University of Delaware Kerri Greenidge, Tufts University Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020//banner_draft_2.jpg

Civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954) highlighted the intersections of race and sex in black women’s lives. This paper focuses on Terrell’s critiques of the suffrage movement, the social purity movement, and the postbellum white nostalgia for “Black Mammies.” Terrell asserted black women’s right to be full citizens, to vote, and to be treated without violence and with respect.

This session is co-sponsored by the New England Biography Series.

close

African American History Seminar “Increasing her Stock”: Two Harriets and the Louisiana Borderlands 16 January 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Rashauna Johnson, Dartmouth College Comment: Jen Manion, Amherst College Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg

This paper uses the sexual biographies of two enslaved women, both named Harriet, in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes to explore the workings of intimacy and empire in the plantation South during its transition from borderlands to hub of King Cotton.

close

African American History Seminar Emancipation In America, Seen Through One Man's Dreadlocks Register registration required at no cost 20 February 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Abigail Cooper, Brandeis University Comment: Kellie Carter Jackson, Wellesley College Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg

1864. A ship leaves its New England port carrying a USCT regiment to fight Confederates on the Louisiana front. But on the way, a showdown takes place when Pvt. John Green refuses his commanding officer's order to cut his hair, protesting that it was contrary to his religion. In the events that follow, a revealing picture of black self-assertion in the making of freedom emerges, one too often hidden by a Civil War master narrative. This paper tells John Green's story, and asks how we might look at emancipation differently when we view it through his dreadlocks.

close

African American History Seminar “Fighting the Dogs:” Fugitivity, Canine Hunters, and Slave Resistance in the Rural South Register registration required at no cost 19 March 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Tyler D. Parry, University of Nevada, Las Vegas Comment: Harriet Ritvo, MIT Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg

As slavery expanded in the Americas, canine attacks were used as a particularly sadistic aspect of racist dehumanization. Through linked processes of breeding and training, slave hunters believed they had developed “natural” enemies between black people and the canines trained to hunt them. This paper investigates how fugitives responded to this interspecies violence by using various techniques of environmental resistance outside the plantation’s confines. By analyzing how fugitives used herbal combinations, waterways, and offensive weapons to subvert the canine's sensory advantage, this paper argues that enslaved communities should be understood as knowledge producers who studied their environments and used scientific awareness in their resistance.

close

African American History Seminar From Jobs and Freedom to Jobs and Opportunity: Andrew Young, Growth, and the Illusion of Job Creation Register registration required at no cost 23 April 2020.Thursday, 5:15PM - 7:30PM Danielle Wiggins, California Institution of Technology Comment: Brenna Greer, Wellesley College Image entitled /2012/juniper/assets/section37/Seminar_2019-2020/banner_draft_2.jpg

This paper considers Atlanta mayor Andrew Young’s shifting ideas about job creation and economic opportunity to investigate how Democrats abandoned their 1970s goal of full employment in favor of policies that promoted private sector job creation via economic growth in the 1980s. By conflating growth with opportunity, Andrew Young sought to stake a middle path between development interests and anti-poverty coalitions, between white and black voters, and between civil rights liberalism and supply-side liberalism. However, economic growth and its promise of opportunity proved to be an inadequate solution for the range of issues its proponents intended it to address.

close