Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women

Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women is a research project dedicated to recovering the history of black women as active intellectual subjects and to moving the study of black thought, culture, and leadership beyond the "Great Men" paradigm that characterizes most accounts of black intellectual activity. We seek to define and promote black women's intellectual history as a legitimate field of academic inquiry, and in so doing to generate compelling scholarship that challenges the traditionally male dominated accounts of intellectual work.  A collaborative effort designed to support the development of the next generation of scholars in this field, Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women examines the perception and construction of black intellectual leadership as male and African-American women's contributions to black thought, political mobilization, creative work and gender theory.  This project also seeks to create and sustain a community of scholars, nurture and mentor junior professors and graduate students, and help develop the leadership skills of young women.

In an effort to move the study of black thought, culture, and leadership beyond the “Great Men” paradigm that characterizes most accounts of black intellectual activity, we have initiated this three year research project. The goal of this project is to address the lack of attention given to the work of black women intellectuals historically and in the contemporary moment. In doing so we hope to challenge the perception and construction of black intellectual leadership as male and to explore African-American women’s contributions to black thought, political mobilization, creative work, gender theory and identity politics. In the course of the three-year project, we aim to generate a body of innovative scholarship on black women intellectuals that maps the distinctive ways in which black women have engaged and challenged the ideas of both white American intellectual traditions and the racial and political ideas of black male thinkers. Designed to support the development of the next generation of scholars in this field, our project brings together scholars at different stages in their careers. With this end in mind, we hosted a preliminary brainstorming meeting in the spring of 2006. Twenty-two scholars attended this first meeting. Participants assessed the state of the field today, shared descriptions of their individual research projects and set goals for the outcome of the project. We plan to convene more times over a period of three years to address this tremendous void in the field of African American Studies, African Diaspora Studies, African Studies, American Studies and American History. In the first year of the project we will hold a day long symposium for participants of the April meeting to share their works in progress. The following summer we plan to host a week long workshop that will focus on finalizing drafts for a volume on Black Women’s Intellectual History. In the third year of the project we plan to host an international public conference. Participants, members of the working group as well as those who have responded to a call for papers, will present their work to the larger public. Following the conference we plan to gather some of the essays for publication. We will also include sample syllabi and reading lists in the appendices. During the course of this working group we hope to encourage and generate scholarship on black women as intellectuals. Working as a collective, we hope to piece together a history of black women’s thought and culture, that examines the distinctive concerns and historical forces that have shaped black women’s ideas and intellectual activities. To this end, we are interested in subjects such as the genealogy of black feminism, the patterns of women’s leadership and theological commitments in the black church, the politics of black women’s literature, and the history of black women’s racial thought. In addition to assembling the collection of essays that will appear in our volume, we want to provide intellectual support for individual projects, to help the development and creation of courses and syllabi and most importantly, encourage the work of younger scholars in this area. Our project aims to define and promote black women’s intellectual history as a field, and in so doing to generate compelling scholarship that challenges the traditionally male dominated accounts of intellectual work. We also believe that in taking on this important and much neglected subject we will help to create and sustain a community of scholars, nurture and mentor junior professors and graduate students and help to develop the leadership skills of young women.

Intellectual History of Black Women

This conference features emerging work on black women's contributions to black thought, political mobilization, creative work and gender theory.  Scholarly Panels, Roundtables, and Keynotes delivered by Professors Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and Elizabeth Alexander will focus on black women as intellectuals across a broad geography including Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America, and Europe.  Over a period of three days we aim to piece together a history of black women's thought and culture that maps the distinctive concerns and historical