2019 Biennial Conference: Call for Papers

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ASWAD’s 10th Biennial Conference
will be held at the College of William & Mary
from 5-10 November, 2019

On November 5-9, 2019, the College of William & Mary will host the Tenth Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD). The year 2019 marks the four hundredth anniversary of the origins of slavery in what became the United States with the arrival of approximately twenty Africans who landed on the nearby shores of the James River in August 1619. While the geographical proximity of Williamsburg, Virginia highlights this important event, the arrival of these Africans reflected the deep diasporic dimensions that already connected–and continue to link–Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, and Asia. In that spirit, this conference will feature cutting edge scholarship, cultural events, film festivals and excursions to local historical sites that will highlight and celebrate the global dimensions of the African Diaspora and the centrality of black people worldwide to the making of the modern world.

For questions, please contact: aswadprogram2019@gmail.com


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All conference inquiries (other than proposal submission and membership) should be forwarded to: aswadprogram2019@gmail.com

ASWAD Member Chouki El Hamel’s Statement on the Silencing of Slavery’s Past:


Sterling Stuckey, March 2, 1932 – August 15, 2018


ASWAD joins colleagues around the world in mourning the loss of our beloved Sterling Stuckey, who passed away on August 15, 2018. But we also celebrate his extraordinary life and contributions. As a founding member of ASWAD, Sterling committed time and personal resources to help launch the fledgling organization. But as important as he was to ASWAD, his long career of service and scholarship went well beyond his involvement with ASWAD.

Born on March 2, 1932 to poet Elma and Pies Sterling Stuckey, Sr. in Memphis, Tennessee, he was part of the massive northern migration of Black Southerners. Arriving in Chicago at the age of 13, he would go on to complete the BA, MA, and PhD at Northwestern University. This was the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement, and Sterling was highly participatory, an experience that would inform his scholarship and humanitarianism. His involvement, focused and intense, included his co-founding and chairing Chicago’s Emergency Relief Committee (ERC) from 1960 to 1962, which sent food, clothing, and money to Fayette and Haywood Counties in Tennessee, where voter registration drives had met with reprisal. In fact, the work of the ERC was the model later adopted by other Chicago civil rights organizations, with August Meier and Elliott Rudwick observing that the ERC was “the most active” of CORE chapters at that time. In addition to chairing the ERC, Sterling chaired the Chicago Freedom Rider Committee in the spring and summer of 1961, and also served as Mid-Western Regional Director of CORE from 1960 to 1963. It was also in 1963 that he and Ralph Wright, Jr. were elected to co-chair the Chicago youth wing of A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Now, and throughout the 1960s he would work alongside such figures as Bob Moses and Amzie Moore in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana.

An early example of how Sterling’s scholarship and activism merged was the Amistad Society, “A Committee on Afro American History and Culture” that he co-founded and chaired from 1962 to 1965. A vanguard organization paving the way for the rise of Black History and Black Studies programs, the Amistad Society sponsored talks by figures that included Sterling Brown, John O. Killens, August Meier, Malcolm X, John Hope Franklin, and Lerone Bennett, Jr. Yet another example of his activist scholarship was his co-authoring the history section of the Mississippi Summer Project Curriculum in 1964, with Staughton Lynd and Beatrice Carpenter Young. Sterling was also part of Vincent Harding’s Atlanta-based Institute of the Black World in the late 1960s. Sterling was immersed in the Movement all while attending graduate school, and would remain at Northwestern as a professor until 1989, when he became Distinguished Professor of History at University of California, Riverside.

Sterling amassed too many awards and honors to enumerate, but to mention just a few, he was twice named Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 1980-1981 and 2002-2003; he was a recipient of the Rockefeller Fellowship at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College, Chicago in 1999-2000; he received the Distinguished Humanist Achievement Award at the Center for Ideas and Society at University of California, Riverside in 1999; he was selected a Senior Fellow at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 1987-1988; and he was designated the W. E. B. Du Bois Visiting Research Professor at UCLA’s Afro-American Studies Center in 1975-1976. In 1994, Professor Stuckey was named to a Presidential Chair at the University of California, Riverside.

Far beyond context, Sterling’s activism is critical in explaining his remarkable scholarship. His research interests encompass the realms of North American slavery, cultural history, and intellectual history. In all three categories, Sterling’s work has proven seminal, characterized by innovative method, precision, and an inimitable idiom of style. Methodologically, Sterling pioneered an interdisciplinary approach to the study of slavery that combines folklore, art history, politics, material cultural studies, anthropology, and theories of music and dance. In analyzing folkloric and literary materials with respect to music and dance, he demonstrates an uncanny ability to translate what has been previously recorded/penned into multi-dimensional representations, all within the idiom of the written word.

Sterling’s initial, indelible imprint upon the scholarly community came in 1968 with the publication of his seminal article, “Through the Prism of Folklore: The Black Ethos in Slavery,” while he was still a graduate student. This article was crucial in setting the paradigms for the emerging community-studies school of thought on slavery. Through a careful analysis of folklore and slave narratives, Sterling successfully argues for cultural agency among the enslaved and acknowledgment of the Black voice. This pioneering article has appeared in at least nineteen different publications. In 1972, Sterling Stuckey edited The Ideological Origins of Black Nationalism, recovering the philosophical, political and social thought of major antebellum activists and offering a sweeping interpretation. Both the article on slavery and the collection on Black nationalists laid the groundwork for Sterling’s 1987 magisterial magnum opus, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America, republished in 2013 in celebration of its 25th anniversary. Incomparable in achievement, bold in its interpretive analysis, Slave Culture remains among the most important works on slavery to date.

Slave Culture’s opening chapter, “Slavery and the Circle of Culture,” evinces a methodological dexterity that provides the basis for a powerful demonstration of cultural linkages connecting an African past with an African American future. By way of inquiry into West and West Central African contexts, Sterling pioneers the study of the Ring Shout and its foundational role in the development of blues, jazz, and jazz dance. Moreover, he articulates the Ring Shout as the symbolic manifestation of Black unity—a circle of culture sustaining bonds of nationalist attachment and communalism which was the heart of the practice historically, contemporarily, and cross-regionally. This is daring, singular brilliance, such that Margaret Washington would conclude: “Slave Culture, a work of major proportions, is gracefully written and thoroughly documented. Detractors wishing to challenge Stuckey’s thesis must confront his superbly disciplined scholarship.”

Sterling did not stop with this milestone, as his work on African cultural persistence in Albany, New York, and New York City has been nothing short of extraordinary. In his explorations of Moby Dick (1851) and Benito Cereno (1865), he unveils how Herman Melville was influenced by Black dance and music, and in identifying African themes and influences and motifs in Melville’s work, he requires Melville scholars to reassess long-standing interpretations. His book on Melville, African Culture and Melville’s Art: The Creative Process in Benito Cereno and Moby Dick, was published in 2008, but Sterling was far from finished, and remained hard at work on the definitive study of Paul Robeson. We are still in the process of determining the state of that work, as well as his other ongoing projects.

In sum, P. Sterling Stuckey was the exemplar of scholarly achievement and academic and community engagement, a model of erudition. We knew him as mentor and colleague, but more importantly as friend. Possessed of a wonderful, and at times biting sense of humor, his warmth and humanity, his magnanimity, his poise, his quiet and graceful dignity, were as dependable as the sunrise.

We are forever in your debt, Sterling. We miss you. Thank you for passing this way.


Michael A. Gomez and Margaret Washington

On the Imperative of Transnational Solidarity: A U.S. Black Feminist Statement on the Assassination of Marielle Franco

On the Imperative of Transnational Solidarity: A U.S. Black Feminist Statement on the Assassination of Marielle Franco

William & Mary to Host International African Diaspora Conference

William & Mary will host the 10th Biennial Conference of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) Nov. 5-10, 2019, in the Williamsburg Lodge.

Featuring the world’s leading scholars of the African Diaspora, the conference will bring together a range of activists and artists and host community events, including an African Diaspora food festival. The conference will feature tours of local historical sites, including Point Comfort, the first landing place of Africans in 1619; Fort Monroe, the site of liberation for 100,000 blacks who escaped slavery during the Civil War; sites of the Underground Railroad and runaway slave maroon communities; the Nat Turner Trail; Hampton University; and Richmond’s historic Jackson Ward, site of the Maggie Walker House, a National Historic Site. Registration is expected to open through ASWAD in September.

“I am absolutely thrilled that William & Mary will host ASWAD’s 10th Biennial Conference in 2019,” said Robert Trent Vinson, Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor History and Africana Studies at W&M and one of the organizers of the conference. “Williamsburg is the right place and 2019 is the right time for this historic event since the year 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the origins of slavery in what became the United States with the arrival of Africans who landed on the nearby shores of the James River in August 1619.”

This early 20th century drawing protrays the arrival of the first Africans as enslaved people in America in 1619. (Library of Congress image)

Described in English records as “twenty and odd” Negroes, these captive Africans from West-Central Africa reflected the growing intensity of the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the world’s largest forced migration that connected Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean, and the centrality of slavery to the making of the modern world.

“This 400th anniversary brings renewed focus to the status of African-descended people in the contemporary world,” said Vinson. “It comes at a time when the legacy of slavery is prompting intensifying demands for reparations.”

The ASWAD conference also comes in the midst of a robust season of commemoration, reflection and action, he added. In tandem with the 2019 Making of America Summit at Norfolk State University on Sept. 26-28, 2019, the ASWAD conference continues the longstanding work of the William & Mary Middle Passage Project, which raises awareness of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to this region. It also is in conversation with the Lemon Project, William & Mary’s recent effort to document and redress its slave-owning and segregationist history dating back to its founding in 1693. As the William & Mary community celebrates this year the 50th anniversary of the first African American students in residence on campus, the university is delighted to announce that it will be hosting the 2019 ASWAD conference, Vinson said.

This 1702 sketch is the earliest known image of the Wren Building. Founded in 1693, W&M has been exploring its involvement in slavery and segregation through the Lemon Project (Special Collections Research Center image).

“Hosting the ASWAD conference continues William & Mary’s initiatives highlighting the black experience, including the Lemon Project, the longstanding effort to document and redress its slave owning and Jim Crow past; the Middle Passage Project, which has prepared for the 2019 commemoration for many years now; and the 50th anniversary of African-Americans resident on campus that is happening this academic year,” he said. “We will have about 1,000 people from all over the world coming to Williamsburg from November 5-10, 2019, showing once again why William & Mary is a 21st century global leader in higher education.”

Principal hosts of the conference include the Middle Passage Project, the Lemon Project, the Institute for Historical Biology, the W&M Africana Studies Program, the W&M Department of History, the Reves Center for International Studies, the W&M American Studies Program and the W&M Department of Anthropology.

Co-hosts include the Institute for Historical Biology, the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Jamestown: Rediscovery, the Joseph R. Roberts Center for the African Diaspora at Norfolk State University, the Department of History and Interdisciplinary Studies Department at Norfolk State University and the African American Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University.

A call for papers is expected from ASWAD in September. For more information on the conference, email aswadprogram2019@gmail.com.


ASWAD VP Election Results

Dear ASWAD Members,

My thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s ASWAD Vice Presidential Election. In an unprecedented turnout, we had over 240 ballots cast in this election.

I am pleased to announce that Erik McDuffie will be our next Vice President! I know that he will do an amazing job of working with our local arrangements chair, Robert Trent Vinson, and our Program (more…)

ASWAD Board Announcement

Dear ASWAD Family,

My thanks to all those of you who participated in this year’s ASWAD Board Elections. On behalf of the Executive Committee, I am pleased and honored to announce the newest ASWAD Board members:

  • Nwando Achebe, Michigan State University
  • Yolanda Covington-Ward, University of Pittsburgh
  • Joseph Jordan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Robert Trent Vinson, College of William and Mary

I look forward to seeing many of you in Sevilla!

Leslie M. Alexander
ASWAD President

ASWAD Denounces White Nationalism

In the wake of another wave of white nationalist and Nazi demonstrations across the globe, the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) reaffirms our opposition to the growing fascist movements throughout the African Diaspora. During these troubled times, ASWAD denounces all forms of harassment, aggression, and violence based on race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. We remain outraged by the U.S. president’s willingness to excuse and (more…)

ASWAD Statement on U.S. Executive Order on Immigration

On Friday, January 27, 2017, the newly inaugurated president of the United States issued an Executive Order barring citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen entry into the United States for 90 days; prohibiting all refugees from entering the United States for 120 days; and banning Syrian refugees for an indefinite period of time. This decision is the practical equivalent of a ban against Muslims entering the United States. In the days that followed, airports (more…)

ASWAD Statement Post-Election in the United States

Over the past two weeks, in the aftermath of a hotly contested presidential election, a wave of racist and xenophobic attacks has swept across the United States. In elementary and middle schools, young Latino/a children are taunted with chants of “Build the Wall” and “Go Back to Mexico.” At universities, similar jeers taunt our Black and Brown students, as students and others who are aligned with the White supremacist rhetoric of the U.S. president-elect feel they have gotten a “green light” to (more…)

ASWAD BLM Solidarity

The Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all organizations throughout the African Diaspora that are committed to asserting the humanity of African-descended peoples across the globe. Recent protests against the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and countless others have caused a disturbing backlash against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and its mission to end police brutality and (more…)

ASWAD Statement on the Charleston Shootings

ASWAD extends its condolences to the families of those massacred at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church on June 17, 2015 in a criminal act of domestic terrorism.  We share in the pain of all who are suffering, but also in the outrage that anti-black violence continues to erupt in societies that continue to cling to the ideologies of racial supremacy, inequality, and ignorance that constituted the very foundations on which they were built.  (more…)

ASWAD Statement on Ferguson (Michael Brown) Grand Jury Decision

The Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora stands with the thousands of people outraged over the refusal of the Ferguson grand jury to send the case of the murder of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson to trial. We stand also with the families and communities of other black youth around the world facing similar targeting and violence at the hands of police, such as the React or Be Killed movement (FB group “Reaja ou Sera Morto”) in Bahia, Brazil seeking justice for Davi Alves and other black men murdered or disappeared in police custody. (more…)