"Black Historians and the Writing of History in the 19th and early 20th centuries: What Legacy?" Call for Papers

As part of the project EHDLM (Writing
History from the Margins) funded by the PRES Sorbonne Paris Cité, a conference
will be held in Paris, University

Paris Diderot, June 12-14 2014, on


"Black Historians and the Writing
of History in the 19th and early 20th centuries: What Legacy?"


Organizers: Marie-Jeanne Rossignol,
Claire Bourhis-Mariotti, Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry, Claire Parfait, Mathieu


Scientific committee: Ira Berlin
(University of Maryland, College Park), Myriam Cottias (CNRS, CIRESC),
Elisabeth Cunin (IRD, CNRS), Pap N’Diaye (Sciences Po), Martha Jones
(Michigan), Jean-Paul Lallemand (EHESS, CENA)


Abstracts: 300 words + one-page CV to be
sent to blackhistorians@gmail.com by November 1, 2013



“History has thrown the colored man

William Wells Brown 1860, in Benjamin
Quarles Black Mosaic 1988, 111

Almost 100 years after The Journal of
Negro History was founded by Carter G. Woodson, we would like to reassess the
legacy of those black historians who wrote the history of their community
between the 1830s and World War II. Through slavery and segregation,
self-educated and formally educated

black Americans wrote works of history
in order to inscribe, or re-inscribe, African Americans in American history.
This served a two-fold objective: to make African-Americans proud of their past
and to enable them to fight against white prejudice. 


Over the past decades, historians have
turned to the study of these pioneers, but a number of issues remain to be
addressed. At first, before African Americans received doctorates in history or
taught history at all-black colleges, activists wrote the first histories of
their community (and beyond). We propose to address the following
questions:  who published these books;
how were they distributed, read and received? How can we assess the work of

these “amateurs” from a historian’s
point of view, at a time when the writing of history was becoming professional
in Europe as well as in the United States? What do these publications reveal
about the construction of professional history in the nineteenth century when
we examine them in relation with other works by Euro-Americans whether working
in an academic setting or as independent researchers?


Regarding the more “professional”
generation that slowly emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century (Du
Bois, Woodson, Logan, and others), a number of questions also remain
unanswered. These historians wrote history “from the margins” of the
profession, launching journals, organizing conferences and developing
institutional tools for their segregated scientific activity. The process of
integration was slow and mostly started

after the Second World War. Yet one can
wonder whether the marginal position of these historians was a hindrance or
whether it might also have been an asset. Could it be argued that their use of
alternative sources made them pioneers in developing a type of social and
cultural history which would later be exemplified by the Annales school in
France? If so, the intellectual contribution of the black historians who wrote
professional history in the first half of the twentieth century must be
re-assessed globally as well as nationally: what does it mean to write history
from the margins?


Finally, the work of these early
historians must be placed squarely within the longer term historiographical
development of African American and

American history: African American
history emerged as a major field of investigation in American history in the
1970s and 1980s, and, with the rise of Atlantic history in the 1990s and 2000s,
it has now become one of the principal preoccupations of American historians.
The groundwork had, however, been laid long before in a climate of segregation:
the slave trade, US-Haitian relationships, and other key issues were the
objects of major studies before the Second World War. How were these books
circulated, read and received beyond an educated black public? Are these
historians fully recognized for their pioneering work outside of their
community, or have they been relegated to the margins of professional
historical memory? 


Plenary speakers: Pero Dagbovie,
Michigan State University, and Claire Parfait, Université Paris 13


This conference is sponsored by

And the following research teams :


It will be held at University Paris
Diderot www.univ-paris-diderot.fr


Université de Cergy-Pontoise

33 boulevard du port



Tel. : 01 34 25 60 00