Call For Papers: “Blackness in New England from Crispus Attucks to Ayanna Pressley”

A special issue of The New England Quarterly

Guest editors: Kerri Greenidge (Tufts University) and Holly Jackson (UMass Boston)

 In Dusk of Dawn (1940), W.E.B. Du Bois referred to his New England boyhood in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, as being “shut in by its mountains and provincialism.” Similarly, the Jamaican-born poet Claude McKay used “Spring in New Hampshire” (1922) as a metaphor for racial isolation and loneliness in what was then, as now, one of the “whitest” states in the Union.  Alongside these characterizations of New England as a site of Black isolation in a sea of whiteness, Black people and their communities have defied erasure. Even as white Bostonians threw rocks and racial slurs at Black school children in 1974, for example, Barbara Smith expanded the radical feminism(s) of the National Black Feminist Organization in the Boston-based Combahee River Collective. New England as a region, cultural concept, and political imaginary has shaped Blackness across the African diaspora since the first Africans arrived in colonial Massachusetts in the 1630s. More importantly, African-descended people – Black and Afro-Native – have consistently shaped New England culture and politics, though their contributions have been undervalued in both scholarly and popular accounts of the region. In contrast to F.O. Matthiessen’s canonization of New England’s flowering – which ignored the significant contributions of William Wells Brown, Harriet Wilson, Maria Stewart, Ann Plato, and David Walker – a region defined by its supposed whiteness has long been the site of Black defiance, providing intellectual and political sustenance to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., Pedro Albizu Campos, and Melnea Cass.

 The New England Quarterly seeks submissions that center Black, Afro-Native, and trans-national Black politics within New England history, literature, and culture. How has Blackness shaped the politics, culture, and racial capitalism of these six states that are consistently ranked among America’s most “highly educated,” most “economically stable,” and most reliably politically liberal, but also marked by high levels of racialized wealth inequality and residential segregation? How has Blackness shaped America’s colonial project, from the ongoing process of tribal erasure, through the violent implementation of New England capital across the Global South? Topics can include, but are not limited to: Afro-Native communities; trans-national Blackness from Paul Cuffe to Amilcar Cabral; Black feminisms; Black literary, artistic, and intellectual traditions; Black material cultures, food cultures, or kinships. We welcome historical, literary, and anti-colonial scholarship, on any period, that explores Black and African diasporic communities across the region, including Boston and the Harbor Islands, Worcester and Portland, Providence and New Haven, trans-national political networks between New Bedford and Cape Verde, Hartford and Jamaica, Bangor and Somalia. We invite submissions from graduate students and early-career scholars, women, queer and trans scholars, including those working outside of academia.

We welcome queries and/or pitches for feedback; please contact holly.jackson@umb.edu and kerri.greenidge@tufts.edu.

Full submissions are due by April 30.

Image of Representative Ayanna Pressley courtesy of Erin Clark of The Boston Globe.

The Colonial Society of Massachusetts Announces the 2020 Walter Muir Whitehill Prize in Early American History

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This prize, established in memory of Walter Muir Whitehill, for many years Editor of Publications for the Colonial Society and the moving force behind the organization, will be awarded for a distinguished essay on early American history (up to 1825), not previously published. The Society hopes that the prize may be awarded annually.

A committee of eminent historians will review the essays. Their decision in all cases will be final.

By arrangement with the editors of The New England Quarterly, the winning essay will be published in an appropriate issue of the journal.

Essays are now being accepted for consideration. All manuscripts submitted for the 2020 prize must be postmarked no later than January 15, 2021. The Society expects to announce the winning candidate in the spring of 2021.

Entries submitted for consideration should be addressed to:

Whitehill Prize Committee
c/o The New England Quarterly
Department of History
University of Massachusetts, Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd.
Boston, MA 02125

For additional information, including prize specifications and a list of past winners, see here.