Beyond the Grave: Black Resistance and the Deceased

Endorsed by the Oral History Association

Thursday, April 2, 2020, 12:45 PM - 2:15 PM

Type: Panel Discussion

Tags: African American; Social and Cultural; Women's History


This panel explores the ways African Americans have conceptualized, utilized, and produced spaces to reflect on the deceased in their efforts for full equality. In their struggle for freedom, African Americans have generated ideas about death or the deceased; engaged in rituals and customs central to mourning; and leveraged spaces conventionally reserved for the deceased, such as funeral homes and cemeteries, to contest discrimination or build community. Investigating the intersection of black resistance and death over a long temporal scope, we question how discourses about dying and the deceased have influenced the black fight for racial equality.

Session Participants

Chair: Kali Nicole Gross, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Dr. Kali Gross is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Dr. Gross's research concentrates on black women’s experiences in the United States criminal justice system between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Additionally, Dr. Gross's writing frequently explores how legacies of race, gender, and justice currently shape mass incarceration.

Panelist: Whitney Nicole Fields, Rutgers University–New Brunswick
Whitney Fields is currently a second year doctoral student at Rutgers University where she studies African American history, American history, and cultural history. She received a B.A. in History and American Studies from the College of William and Mary in 2015. Her research explores the uses of plantation burial grounds by enslaved people. Drawing on testimony and nineteenth century narratives written by formerly enslaved people, she locates the grave as a space where enslaved people formed community, resisted the demands of enslavement, and reinterpreted meanings of freedom.

Panelist: Samuel Galen Ng, Smith College
Sam Ng is an assistant professor of Africana Studies at Smith College. In 2017, he received his PhD in American Studies from New York University. His research interests include African American history and culture in the twentieth century, social movements, gender, queer theory, performance, and affect studies. His book project, Bodies in Danger: The Politics of Black Mourning in the United States, 1917–1955, examines the emergence and development of mourning as a viable basis for black political organizing and protest in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century.

Panelist: Will Tchakirides, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Will Tchakirides is a Distinguished Dissertation Fellow and Ph.D. Candidate in History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His research explores race, policing, and power in metropolitan America. He is currently writing a dissertation on Milwaukee's Black-led struggle for police accountability in the long-1970s. Will earned his M.A. in U.S. History with a concentration in Public History from American University in 2011.

Panelist: Joseph T. Williams, Rutgers University–Newark
Joseph Williams is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. His research interests lie at the intersection of black intellectual history, black women's history, and the history of American religious reform.