MultiSession Self Defense, Civil Rights, and Scholarship: Panels in Honor of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall , Part 1: Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s Africans in Colonial Louisiana Twenty Years Later

AHA Session 85
Friday, January 4, 2013: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Rhythms Ballroom 2 (Sheraton New Orleans)
Martin A. Klein, University of Toronto
New Orleans and the Wider World The Public Practice of History in and for a Digital Age
Paul E. Lovejoy, York University

Session Abstract

Among historians of Africa, the United States and Caribbean, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall is highly regarded for her public outreach and award winning scholarship. Having entered graduate school at University of Michigan in 1966, retired from Rutgers University’s History Department in 1996, and moved recently to Michigan State University to work on a National Endowment for the Humanities funded slave database project, her academic career spans almost half a century. Over that career, her scholarship has been recognized with awards, including a Guggenheim, several NEH fellowships, the John Hope Franklin Prize, and the Willie Lee Rose Prize. Her database “Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy, 1719-1820,” which she assembled and which is the foundation of much of her scholarship, has long been free and available on the Internet.  It is a treasure for genealogists and professional historians alike.  Since 2012 marked the twentieth year anniversary of the publication of her watershed Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Louisiana University Press), several who know Gwen thought it appropriate to organize a panel about the book and database that was its evidentiary base.

But focusing on one side of Gwen’s life would not be enough.  A New Orleans native, she has long been a close observer of and influential participant in the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Gwen and her husband, Harry Haywood, were among the founders of the Provisional Organizing Committee for a Communist Party, which was formed in New York in August, 1958. Haywood was a central figure in the communist party in the US and Soviet Union and published the influential book Negro Liberation in 1948. As for Gwen, when she was teaching at Elizabeth City State College in North Carolina in 1965, she encouraged black students to organize armed resistance against the KKK and to oppose the US military involvement in Vietnam. This and other actions in the struggle against racism, oppression, and injustice led to an FBI investigation and to her being blacklisted and fired from her teaching job. 

These panels will celebrate Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s life and career.