Contestations in the Classroom: Global Student Activism and the Transformation of Black Studies

Organizer and Chair: Ashley Farmer
Panelists: Dara Walker (Penn State University), Russell Rickford (Cornell University), Quito Swan (Howard University)

Historians are now appreciating the richness of student activism and how contestations over curricula and classroom space helped formulate Black Studies. This panel will address the interrelationship between history, curriculum development, black power, and Black Studies through an exploration of student activism and the black independent school movement.

Dr. Ashley D. Farmer is a historian of black women’s history, intellectual history, and radical politics. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Departments of History and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era (UNC Press, 2017), is the first comprehensive study of black women’s intellectual production and activism in the Black Power era. She is also the co-editor of New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition (NUP Press, 2018). Dr. Farmer’s scholarship has appeared in numerous venues including The Black Scholar and The Journal of African American History. Her research has also been featured in several popular outlets including Vibe, NPR, CSPAN, and The Chronicle Review. She is also a leader of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) and a regular blogger for Black Perspectives. Dr. Farmer earned her BA from Spelman College, an MA in History and a PhD in African American Studies from Harvard University

Dr. Dara Walker is a postdoctoral fellow in the Richards Civil War Era Center at The Pennsylvania State University. She holds a PhD in History from Rutgers University. Her research and teaching expertise include African American history, urban history, 20th century U.S. history, and the history of childhood and youth. She received her B.S. in African American Studies from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 as Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a M.A. in Pan-African Studies from Syracuse University in 2011. Dr. Walker is currently writing her book manuscript which examines the role of the high school organizing tradition in the development of black radical politics of the Black Power era in Detroit. In addition to her research, teaching, and mentoring, Dr. Walker is a regular contributor to Black Perspectives, the blog site for the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS).

Dr. Russell Rickford is an associate professor of history at Cornell University. He specializes in African-American political culture after World War Two, the Black Radical Tradition, and transnational social movements. His current book, We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination, received the Liberty Legacy Award from the Organization of American Historians. He is currently working on a book about Guyana and African American radical politics in the 1970s. Rickford’s scholarly articles have appeared in Journal of American History, Journal of African American History, Souls, New Labor Review, and other publications. His popular writing has appeared in publications such as In These Times and Counterpunch. He also writes about racial and social justice for the African American Intellectual History Society’s Black Perspectives blog and other sites. Rickford holds a bachelor’s from Howard University and a doctorate from Columbia University. A native of Guyana, he lives in Ithaca, New York.

Dr. Quito Swan is a Professor of African Diaspora History at Howard University. The author of Black Power in Bermuda (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), his scholarship is focused on twentieth century Black internationalism. His forthcoming book, Pauulu’s Diaspora (University Press of Florida, 2020), explores the global relationships between Black Power and environmental justice. His developing book project is titled Pacifica Black: Black Internationalism and Oceania (New York University Press, Black Power Series, eds. Ashley Farmer and Ibram X. Kendi). Swan’s research has received national fellowships from Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and UT-Austin’s Harry Ransom Center. He is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he is completing a book project on environmental justice and social movements in contemporary Oceania. Along with Keisha Blain, he is the co-editor of the University of Illinois’s Black Internationalism book series.