Black Power Conference - College of Charleston Libraries

August 18, 2012
Avery Research Center

blackpower_conference_banner4-300x72 Black Power Conference

The Fire Every Time: Reframing Black Power
Across the  Twentieth Century and Beyond


On September 21st & 22nd, 2012, the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture will host a public history symposium and community event on the topic of “The Fire Every Time: Reframing Black Power Across the Twentieth Century and Beyond”.


In his 1963 collection of essays, The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin reflected on the expulsion of African Americans from the “American Dream” of economic opportunity, political equality, and social belonging.   Rather than be daunted by what Baldwin called “the center of this dreadful storm, this vast confusion,” he connected the present and future struggles of Black people to their past:  “I know that what I’m asking is impossible. But in our time, as in every time, the impossible is the least that one can demand—and one is, after all, emboldened by the spectacle of human history in general, and American Negro history in particular, for it testifies to nothing less than the perpetual achievement of the impossible.”

In our contemporary age, where some have claimed the nation has achieved the “impossible” through the election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African-American president, we ask scholars, activists, and artists to re-conceptualize the twentieth century through the lens of past, present, and future struggles for Black Power, which in the words of James Baldwin spread as a “fire” every time.


The conference will feature two plenary panels, two roundtable panels, and fourteen paper presentation panels on such topics as policing, incarceration, higher education, Black arts and cultural institutions, the military, self-defense, images and iconography of the Black Panther Party, inter-racial alliances and “Rainbow” coalitions, religion, nationalism, trans-nationalism and global impact of Black Power, and film and documentary film-making.


PLENARY Session: State of the Field
Yohuru Williams (Fairfield University), Peniel Joseph (Tufts University), Donna Murch (Rutgers University), Hasan Jeffries (The Ohio State University), Rhonda Williams (Case Western Reserve University).

PLENARY Session: Activists Then and Now
Cleveland Sellers (Voorhees College & Scholar Activist), Herman Blake (Medical University of South Carolina & Scholar Activist), Millicent Brown (Claflin University & Scholar Activist), James Campbell (Community Leader and Organizer), Osei Terry Chandler (Community Leader).

ROUNDTABLE: Reframing the Orangeburg Massacre: Protest and Police Reprisals
Cleveland Sellers (Voorhees College & Scholar Activist), Judy Richardson (Director & Former SNCC Activist), Jack Shuler (Denison University), Jack Bass (College of Charleston).

ROUNDTABLE Film Excerpt Screenings: Black Power on Film: Documentaries, Hollywood, and Filmmaking
Portia Cobb (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno (Director,Revolution ’67), Judy Richardson, (Former SNCC Activist & Film Director, Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968).

ROUNDTABLE: The Longue Durée: Black Power from the Nineteenth Century to the 1990′s
Van Gosse (Franklin Marshall College), Deborah Gray White (Rutgers University), Curtis Austin(The Ohio State University).


We will also feature a special roundtable on the “Orangeburg Massacre of 1968” during which three African American students were killed by state police in Orangeburg during a civil rights protest of a segregated bowling alley.  This event was quite similar to the Kent State shooting of 1971, and yet received little national media attention.  We hope to rectify the media’s lack of attention by bringing together Dr. Cleveland Sellers, a protest organizer and now president of Voorhees College, with two recent and noted authors on the incident, namely Jack Bass and Dr. Jack Shuler, and a documentary filmmaker, Judy Richardson, who will show her film on the Orangeburg Massacre of 1968.   This promises to be a valuable and important discussion on a pressing matter of South Carolina’s history that has dominated the history books, but not public dialogue.


Although our community conference and gathering considers the history of African American politics and activism in Charleston, the Lowcountry, and beyond, we also consider how these topics have manifested in the contemporary world, a matter of pressing and national importance as the nation considers the reelection of the country’s first Black president.  Importantly, these scholars aim to create a dialogue with the audience that will think about how civil rights organizing and Black Power activism has fundamentally reshaped and broadened American democracy and citizenship for all peoples.


Altogether, we will bring together over 50 of the country’s top scholars on African American history and culture alongside activists and community members.  This represents a seminal gathering and a rare opportunity to create a memorable dialogue.  Far too often historians and scholars are seen as being removed from the general public and we hope to bridge that distance by creating a unique public history seminar and community gathering.  In addition to offering two-days of plenary speakers, roundtable panels, and presentations, this conference also features documentary film and a juried art exhibition.  Please come join what will be an engaging conference and conversation.

For additional information contact:
Dr. Robert Chase

Conference Website

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Addlestone Library is open to the College of Charleston community and affiliates via card access. Visitors may access Addlestone Library Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, and must present a government issued ID and sign in upon entry.