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April 30 CALL FOR PAPERS Emancipations, Reconstructions, and Revolutions: African American Politics and U.S. History in the Long 19th Century


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A Conference to be held at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies of the University of Pennsylvania

Emancipations, Reconstructions, and Revolutions seeks to gather historians of US politics and African-American life to consider collectively not whether African Americans participated in the politics of the early, ante- and post-bellum republic, but how, when, and with what lasting effects. It will bring together various historiographical revisions now in process, including the recognition that the Civil War and Reconstruction typify rather than divide the middle period of American history. We are on the cusp of a new understanding of our national origins, seeing the American Revolution as a violent civil war shaped in large part by slavery and black participation. The Revolutionary settlement of half-slave and half-free thus defines a first Emancipation and first Reconstruction, part of a single “long” process beginning in the North and culminating in the South. We believe that our understanding of modern African American and U.S. politics will be fruitfully renovated by rethinking prior emancipations and reconstructions, in ways that do not take for granted the nature and outcomes of revolutions that could easily be described as civil wars followed by reconstructions.

Some specific questions upon which we hope to encourage further research include:

–Black voters and the varieties of black politics. Why have black men as partisans received so little attention in the present, when the specter of “negro voters” obsessed white men, whether in 1800 or 1900? How might the social history of free black people look different if we incorporate their electoral activism around and even within the state?
–Movement, Place, and Strategy. What was the role of foreign affairs, wars, diasporas, fugitives and maroons in the changing relationship between African Americans and U.S. political culture?
–African American history and the narrative of U.S. politics. How will the dominant paradigms of political history—the wars, party systems and realignments, ideologies, and studies of electoral practice–require adjustment if we put black people back in? Are theorizations of a “White Republic” challenged by evidence of slavery’s salience in the American Revolution and black political participation throughout the 19th century?
–Disfranchisement as a Tradition. How should we incorporate the rolling disfranchisement of the 1780s-1830s, akin to that of the 1870s-1900s (and perhaps carried into our own time), into a new history of black politics qua American politics?

Organizing Committee

The Conference Organizing Committee includes David Waldstreicher, CUNY Graduate Center and Van Gosse, Franklin & Marshall, Conveners; Laura F. Edwards, Duke University; Steven Kantrowitz, University of Wisconsin at Madison; Kellie Carter Jackson, Hunter College, City University of New York-Graduate Center; James Oakes, Graduate Center, City University of New York-Graduate Center; Steven Hahn, University of Pennsylvania; Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University; James Brewer Stewart, Macalester College; Graham Russell Hodges, Colgate University; Mia Bay, Rutgers University; Rogers Smith, University of Pennsylvania; Gerald Horne, University of Houston.

Format and Outcomes

The format will be a series of panels, held first at the CUNY Graduate Center on Friday, February 8, 2017 and then at MCEAS on Saturday, February 9. Most papers will be pre-circulated to generate scholarly dialogues and create a whole greater than the sum of the parts. Proposals of 300-500 words, accompanied by a short (2 pages or less) CV, should be sent by April 30, 2016 to Decisions will be announced early in the summer of 2016. Papers of approximately 7,500 words will be due for pre-circulation no later than January 6, 2017. Some support for travel and lodging expenses will be available to conference presenters.

Questions and requests for further information may be directed to:
David Waldstreicher, CUNY Graduate Center, Van Gosse, Franklin & Marshall College,

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