Wednesday, November 18, 2015
November 18, 2015: SHA Follow Ups: Panels
[This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend my first Southern Historical Association annual conference, in Little Rock, Arkansas. Thanks to a We’re History piece of mine, I was invited by Elaine Frantz Parsons to take part in a wonderful panel on the Reconstruction-era KKK. In this series I’ll follow up both that panel and other takeaways from this great conference!]
Every SHA panel I attended both engaged with and challenged my perspective and ideas. Here are quick takeaways from the talks and histories featured in three exemplary such sessions:
1) Campuses, Classrooms, and the Struggle for Racial Justice after 1965: In Professor Shirletta Kinchen’s talk on student and community activism at Memphis’ Lemoyne-Owen College in 1968, I was particularly struck by her details about The Invaders, a local Black Power group with one of the most clever names I’ve ever encountered. Professor Michelle Purdy’s talk on the first black students at newly integrated private and independent secondary schools modeled an interdisciplinary approach, weaving together oral histories, educational histories, and engagement with institutional and governmental efforts such as the National Association of Independent Schools and the Higher Education Act of 1965 to tell this compelling story. And Professor Jill Ogline Titus’ talk highlighted a complex example of a Civil Rights era educational initiative, the Southern Student Program through which the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker activist organization) placed Southern African American students with Northern white host families and secondary schools.
2) Law and Activism in the Long Civil Rights Movement: Professor Melissa Milewski’s groundbreaking research has discovered and analyzed more than 1300 appellate court civil cases featuring black and white litigants in 8 Southern states between 1865 and 1950; most strikingly, she has discovered that the black litigants won nearly 60% of those cases, making these legal efforts a vital site of civil rights progress and possibility in the era. Professor Stephanie Hinnershitz is working on a topic of particular interest to me, the lives and legal battles of Asian American immigrants in Southern states in the early 20th century; she focused in particular on the Arkansas case of Applegate vs. Luke, but highlighted a number of related historical and cultural questions that I can’t wait to learn more about it. And graduate student Emily Senefield shared her ongoing research into Tennessee’s Highlander Folk School, and especially the ways in which music and labor activism there in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s helped move toward the Civil Rights Movement’s use of Freedom Songs.
3) Roundtable on the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s 100th Anniversary: To celebrate 100 years of Carter G. Woodson’s unique and vital organization, and the Journal of African American History that it has published for nearly all those years, this roundtable featured a trio of scholars whose work has contributed immensely to the association and journal: Pennsylvania State Professor of Labor and Employment Relations James Stewart, UCLA Professor of History Brenda Stevenson, and University of California Riverside Professor of History V.P. Franklin (the journal’s current editor). Besides reiterating the essential role that the association and journal have played in American scholarship, education, activism, and society throughout the century, this roundtable also reminded me of the ways in which scholarly conferences and organization can offer and model community in the best sense, and can both rejuventate our own perspectives and efforts and give us opportunities for important next steps in our careers and lives.
Next SHA follow up tomorrow,
PS. What do you think?