New Directions in African American History Archive

New Directions in African American History is a series that highlights current scholarly research in African American history and African Diaspora that reveals the connections of the Black experience in the U.S. and the world. Our invited speakers, performers, artists, activists, community leaders, and scholars present African American history in ways that are engaging, interactive, and relevant to the public. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions and engage in dialogue with the speakers. The New Directions series also allows the Mitchell Center to address topics of national importance (and when appropriate, the connection to Delaware’s history).

New Directions events are free and open to the public. Join us in conversation as we explore different ways in which African American history, diaspora, and culture inform our appreciation of America’s past and our understanding of America’s present, as well as the ways in which this history and culture can influence America’s future.

Please note that this page is an archive of previous New Directions. You can visit our events calendar to see our latest programs. Consider becoming a member of the Delaware Historical Society or making a donation. Your support helps us sustain programs like New Directions in African American History.

Previous New Directions

Program year 2021

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Description from Program Flyer:

Join us in discussion with Kelli Coles and Mali Collins as we use the DHS Mosley Doll Collection to
explore the field of Black Girlhood Studies and the erasure of Black girls and women from the
archives. They will discuss how the experience of Black girls and mothers have been shared
historically and how new scholarship and publications are providing a deeper understanding of this history.

Mali Collins is an NEH NextGeneration Fellow in the African American Public Humanities, and a Ph.D. candidate in English Studies at the University of Delaware. Her dissertation offers a Black feminist critique of archival theory in its examination of contemporary Black women’s literary and visual art documenting mother-child separation as a result of state- sanctioned violence. Her dissertation project has won the Ida B. Wells Award from the Coordinating Council for Women in History, and its third chapter won an essay award from the NWSA (National Women’s Studies Association). Her public humanities practice includes providing doula services to Black families in the DMV area.

Kelli Coles is a PhD candidate in the History Department at University of Delaware. She is a African American Public Humanities Initiative Fellow and Colored Conventions Project scholar and co-chair of the Website and Digital Exhibits Committee. By looking at everyday objects and domestic spaces, Kelli explores what more we can learn about the lived experiences and influences of Black Americans during the 1700 and 1800s as they fought to be acknowledged as American citizens worthy of equal rights. Her dissertation excavates the presence and creativity of Black American girls who were creating needlework in early America to better understand how Black communities maneuvered in their transitions from enslavement to freedom. Kelli finds joy in practicing yoga and is planning to teach herself how to embroider in the coming months.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Description from Program Flyer:

Join us at 6pm for a lively interview with Dr. Carolyn Finney by Dr. Stephanie M. Lampkin,
Director, Mitchell Center for African American Heritage, as we discuss the historical and present
relationship between African Americans and nature, outdoor recreation, and environmental rights.

Carolyn Finney, PhD is a storyteller, author and a cultural geographer. The aim of her work is to
develop greater cultural competency within environmental organizations and institutions, challenge media outlets on their representation of difference, and increase awareness of how privilege shapes who gets to speak to environmental issues and determine policy and action. Her first book, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors was released in 2014 (UNC Press). Recent publications include “The Space Between the Words” (Harvard Design JournalSpring 2018), “A Thousand Oceans” (Geographical Research, Wiley Pub., Fall 2019) “This Moment” (River Rail: Occupy Colby Fall 2019), Self-Evident: Reflections on the Invisibility of Black Bodies in Environmental Histories (BESIDE Magazine, Montreal Spring 2020), and The Perils of Being Black in Public: We are all Christian Cooper and George Floyd (The Guardian, June 3rd 2020).

Program year 2020

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Description from Program Flyer:

Alice Dunbar-Nelson spent nearly 30 years of her life living in Wilmington, DE and is best known for her accomplishments as an educator, writer, journalist, poet, and activist.  She taught at schools in Delaware including Howard High School and the State College for Colored Students (now Delaware State University).  As an activist, she was vocal in her support of women’s suffrage, access to education, and antilynching.   

How did her writings make her one of the most prominent figures in the Harlem Renaissance? What books were in her library? How does her legacy speak to today’s Black political activism?

Jesse Erickson received his PhD in Information Science from UCLA.  He is currently the Coordinator of Special Collections and Digital Humanities, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center at the University of Delaware.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Description from Program Flyer:

In this talk, she will examine Cardi B’s engagement with politics and how it has been received by the general public, political pundits, and politicians. Analyzing these instances using Black feminist theorizing, she argues that Cardi’s engagement with politics, and the backlash she has received following these moments, highlight the stereotyping and devaluation of Black women’s,
and more specifically, Black Latinas’ voices in the U.S. political sphere.

Shantee Rosado is the U.S. Afro-Latinidades Post-doctoral Fellow in Latinx Studies at Williams
College. She received a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Macalester College and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. Her current book project,
Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and the Emotional Politics of Race and Blackness in the U.S., examines how collective emotions shape the racial and political ideologies of second-generation Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in Central Florida.

Program year 2019

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Description from Program Flyer:

Join us as Dr. Quito Swan shares his latest research project titled “Melanesia’s Way: Black
Internationalism and Diaspora in the South Pacific,” which seeks to understand how ideas of Black Power, African American freedom struggles and Pan-Africanism were shared in places such as Fiji, Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.

Dr. Swan is a professor of Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research and teaching interests include Black internationalism
and 20th-century Black social movements.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Description from Program Flyer:

In The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation (The University Press of
Kentucky, 2018), Dr. Joseph R. Fitzgerald profiles Gloria Richardson, a
prominent civil rights activist and leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) in Cambridge, Maryland.

Join us in a facilitated discussion with Stephanie Lampkin, Director Mitchell Center for African
American Heritage, as we learn more about the life of Gloria Richardson, her connection to Delaware, and Dr. Fitzgerald’s personal experience as Richardson’s biographer. In The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation (The University Press of Kentucky, 2018), Dr. Joseph R. Fitzgerald profiles Gloria Richardson, a prominent civil rights activist and leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC) in Cambridge, Maryland.

Program year 2018

Friday, September 7, 2018

Program Description:

James Beard Book Award-winning author Toni Tipton-Martin will discuss her new book, The Jubilee of African American Cooking.  It includes 500 recipes adapted from The Jemima Code, which examines the presence of black women in cookbooks and journalism as the creators and communicators of the traditions of soul food.  She challenges our understanding of their domestic work  by reinterpreting their roles as professionals and managers demonstrating high-quality culinary skills, including food styling and presentation, influenced by African cultural retentions and oral traditions.  Her work rejects stereotypes of black women and challenges the ways in which they have been erased from American history by reconstructing a foundation for understanding cooking as a cultural practice involving chemistry, math, and entrepreneurship.  Tipton-Martin places black women at the center of a process of teaching, learning and transmitting culture through apprenticeship and observation, and through her work as a community activist and teacher, continues the traditions. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Program Description:

August Quarterly Panel Discussion: The Black Church and Interfaith Traditions

August Quarterly, or “Big Quarterly,” is an African American religious festival that filled Wilmington’s French Street with throngs of people for over 150 years, and has deep roots in African Union Methodism.  Peter Spencer, a free man of African descent, organized the first gathering in Wilmington in August 1813, shortly before the Union Church of Africans was incorporated. The 1814 festival was the first in connection with the Union Church of Africans as an incorporated body, and is still celebrated today. 

This year’s week-long celebration will be marked by a special panel discussion at the Delaware Historical Society’s Mitchell Center on the role of interfaith religious traditions in the Black Church.  Participants in the discussion represent intellectual perspectives on practices of Judaism, Islam, humanism and evangelicalism by people of African descent in the U.S.  They will explore commonalities and differences in the spiritual traditions, as related to forms of cultural expression, social protest and social justice movements, including hip hop.  Their discussion with audience participants is intended to encourage inspiring thought about how African Americans of all spiritual backgrounds are ultimately one community, diverse in our faith, beliefs and practices, but united in a message of liberation.  Across different forms of worship, we come together to seek equality, justice and freedom of expression and participation in American life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Program Description:

John Thabiti Willis, Associate Professor in the Department of History at Carleton College and Associate Editor of the Journal of West African History, will speak on his book, Masquerading Politics:  Kinship, Gender, and Ethnicity in a Yoruba Town (Indiana University Press, 2017).

In West Africa, especially among Yoruba people, masquerades have the power to kill enemies, appoint kings, and grant fertility. John Thabiti Willis takes a close look at masquerade traditions in the Yoruba town of Otta, exploring transformations in performers, performances, and the institutional structures in which masquerade was used to reveal ongoing changes in notions of gender, kinship, and ethnic identity.  As Willis focuses on performers and spectators, he reveals a history of masquerade that is rich and complex.  His research offers a more nuanced understanding of performance practices in Africa and their role in forging alliances, consolidating state power, incorporating immigrants, executing criminals, and projecting individual and group power on both sides of the Afro-Atlantic world.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Program Description:

Dr. Robyn C. Spencer, Associate Professor, Department of History at Lehman College, City University of New York, will speak on her book, The Revolution Has Come:  Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland (Duke University Press, 2016).

The story of the Black Panther Party (BPP) reveals the complexity of everyday life in working-class African American communities.  Focusing on the role of black women in the Party provides an even deeper exploration of the development of community-based and public policy solutions to the problems of under-resourced schools and the impact of mass incarceration on black family life.   Spencer argues that “solutions the Panthers sought, such as community control of the police, freedom for political prisoners, and an end to poverty and war, remain central in many struggles for justice today.  Although this book centers on Oakland…the BPP’s commitment to making linkages with revolutionaries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean made it one of the most effective ambassadors for Black Power.”  In the 1970s, the BPP as an organization was revitalized under the leadership of women, and across the country experimented with truly collective structures for providing health care, child care, and education to their members and the larger black community. This period has been the least-studied aspect of their history, but the Party’s engagement with urban renewal, alternative education, and community control reflects a continuation of the quest for Black Power.