African Americans in Boston: From Slavery to Today

Over the weekend of April 24th-26th, 2009, the African American Studies Program hosted a symposium in honor of Professor Emerita Adelaide M. Cromwell and the 40th anniversary of the founding of African American Studies at Boston University. The event was a great success, exploring historical, curatorial, institutional, and personal reflections on the history of the African American community in Boston and bringing together academics, museum curators, alumni, and university officials in a weekend of inquiry and celebration.

The academic program on Saturday April 25th consisted of four panels:

Panel I: Early Slavery, Anti-Slavery, and Freedom

Chair: Robert Hall, Associate Professor of African American History, Northeastern University

“Eastern Massachusetts and the TransAtlantic Slave Trade”
Linda Heywood, Director of African American Studies and Professor of History, Boston University
John K. Thornton, Professor of African American Studies and History, Boston University

“Gradual Emancipation in Massachusetts”
Joanne Pope Melish, Associate Professor of History, University of Kentucky

“Post-Emancipation Effects of Race, Class, and Gender on Elite Black Women in Boston”
Dolita Catchcart, Assistant Professor of History, Wheaton College

Panel II: Exhibiting Black Boston

Chair: Cynthia Becker, Assistant Professor of Art History, Boston University

“Sharing Stories: Interpreting African American History for New England and the Nation”
Tom Lincoln, Executive Director, Isaac Royall House & Slave Quarters

“Black Entrepreneurs of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”
Beverly Morgan-Welch, Executive Director, Museum of African American History

“Documenting the History of Slavery in Massachusetts: The Role of the Massachusetts Historical Society”
Jayne Gordon, Director of Education and Public Programs, Massachusetts Historical Society

“Lost in Translation: Possibilities and Pitfalls in Bringing Archaeology to the Public”
Alexandra Chan, Archaeological Consultant

Panel III: Educating Blacks in Boston and at Boston University

Chair: Mary Anne Boelcskevy, Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Boston University

“Boston University’s Effect on Empowering and Educating Blacks in the Post-War Era”
Vita Paladino, Director of the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University

“Forced Tolerance: Resistance to Intercultural Education in Boston Public Schools, 1943-1965″
Zoe Burkholder, Fellow, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Harvard University

“Northern School Integration: Boston’s Operation Exodus”
James Teele, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Boston University

“Dunbar’s Legacy”
Jean McGuire, Executive Director, Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunity

Panel IV: Memory/ Reflection and the Politics of Boston

Chair: Gene Jarrett, Associate Professor of African American Studies and English, Boston University

“Boston’s Civil Rights Legacy: Re-assessing the Forties and Fifties”
Walter C. Carrington, Former US Ambassador

“In the Flow of History”
Melvin B. Miller, Publisher/ Editor, The Bay State Banner

“The Cultural Imprint of Elma Lewis: A Daughter of Roxbury”
Barry Gaither, Director and Curator, National Center of Afro-American Artists

“Emancipatory Education on the Streets of Roxbury: The Transformative Nature of Boston’s Black Community, 1960-1980″
Lyda Peters, Professor of Education, Cambridge College

The program also featured an opening reception in honor of the program’s 40th anniversary and an alumni brunch, at which several alumni gave performances.

The weekend was co-sponsored by the Boston University College of Arts & Sciences, Boston University Humanities Foundation, the African Studies Center, the Department of Sociology, the Department of History, and the African Presidential Archive & Research Center.

For further information about the events of this symposium, please contact Katy Evans, Program Administrator at kaevans@bu.edu or by phone at 617-358-1421.

Click here to see photographs of the event.