Coming to Florida, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) will present the 98th Annual ASALH Convention, Oct. 2-6 in Jacksonville. In 1998, the annual conference, held in Miami, was sponsored by The Black Archives with support from the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. In essence, the ASALH mission remains the same as when it was founded in 1915 by historian Carter G. Woodson: “to promote, research, preserve interpret and disseminate information about black life, history and culture to the global community.” ASALH established Black History Month and sets the annual theme.
Accepting the charge and leading this national organization as the 27th president is Daryl Michael Scott, former chairman of the history department at Howard University. He earned a Ph.D. in history from Stanford University and specializes in American history since the Civil War. In particular, he studies African Americans, Southerners (whites in the American South), race relations, and intellectual history.
One of Scott’s ASALH interests is voting rights in “the new era of civil rights.” This new era is believed by some to be defined in part by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer in the case Shelby County v. Holder. The 5-4 ruling decided that the provision designating which states will receive additional federal oversight due to their history of voter discrimination is invalid. In a response to the decision, Scott published a statement saying, “the Supreme Court signaled the end of the federal protection of the right to vote. The Court did not make federal laws and intervention unconstitutional, but it unleashed the authority of all states to make voting more difficult. Similar to a century ago, African Americans in the South, as well as the North, must protect their right to vote through organizing locally and building coalitions.” To this end, ASALH is creating the Voter Empowerment Project (VEP), to facilitate community voting alliances. An update of the VEP will be given at the annual conference in Jacksonville.
In addition, more than 175 panels featuring members and prominent figures in black cultural studies, scholars and students from all disciplines as well as leading academicians will present research and current projects in the field of African American History.
This year, several sessions will feature Miamians. A panel titled, “Teach Them How To Sing: Harry T. Moore and Patricia Due, Florida’s Activist Educators,” will be presented by panelists from the University of Florida’s Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. Marna Weston will highlight the oral history of a longtime Miamian, the late Patricia Due.
Florida Memorial University will be represented on a panel titled, “Emancipation of Black Women’s Roles and Images: How Michelle Obama Defies and Confuses the Modern Media.” History Professor Rose Thevenin will focus on Michelle Obama’s advocacy on behalf of military and working families in Miami-Dade County and nationwide.
On the panel titled “Framing Black Identity,” a native Miamian, History Professor Edda Fields-Black of Carnegie-Mellon University, will present a paper on ”Proving Ground for Freedom: The Civil War, Port Royal Experiment, and the Transformation of Gullah/Geechee Identity.” Professor Fields-Black is my daughter.
According to ASALH Executive Director Sylvia Cyrus, the annual meeting is an occasion to explore the history and culture of Africans and people of African descent. The convention brings together more than 1,000 people — academics, community builders, educators, business professionals and others — who share an abiding interest in the annual theme.
ASALH’s 2013 theme is “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”
For nearly a century, the scholarly sessions, professional workshops, and public presentations continue to analyze and illuminate the contributions of people of African descent to the world. Registration is open to the public. For additional information: www.asalh.org.