Courtesy of @blackstudiesfairfieldu.

On Monday, February 26 Fairfield University’s history department hosted Connecticut Explored, a magazine that centers around Conn. history, to discuss the anniversary of their book, African American Connecticut Explored, and to commemorate the end of Black History Month.

The history department, African American studies professors from other universities, and editors of African American Connecticut Explored took turns speaking about the book, the process of making it, as well as the future of African American studies in Conn.

Patricia Behre, PhD, the head of the history department and Shannon King, PhD, the head of the Black studies program at Fairfield, both welcomed the audience and provided insight into the importance of African American Connecticut Explored.

King noted that the book was the first to cover African American history in Conn., making this book monumental for Black studies in the state.

Elizabeth Noreman, who was the head editor of the book, spoke on the writing and editing process begind the text and the importance of its stories.

“By 2011, we had published 23 essays in the magazine [Connecticut Explored], and I thought they would work well as a collection in book form,” said Noreman.

“The book became a collection of 54 essays by about 30 scholars that tell the story of the long arc of the African American experience,” she continued. “There are so many remarkable and inspiring stories in this book.”

The event then switched to a virtual and in-person panel discussion from several history and African American studies professors across the country. 

Brittany Yancy, PhD, who is an Assistant Professor of History and African American studies at Illinois State University, spoke first over Zoom. 

When asked about her thoughts on “African American Connecticut Explored,” she shared that it was a great source for her while she was in the middle of her doctoral work, as her dissertation focused on the women in the New Haven Chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Yancy noted that she was drawn to African American Connecticut Explored because she wanted to see “this wonderful narrative of community…[and] what black power looked like.”

One of the moderators asked Yancy about her thoughts on how to strengthen the future of African American studies in Conn.

“Pursue African American studies by centering humanity and agency. And whether you’re talking about women in the black freedom movement, African American men who served in the military; the approach is critical. You are approaching your work centering humanity and agency,” replied Yancy.

The conversation transitioned to an in-person panel, with Frank Mitchell of the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Siobhan Carter-David, PhD, of Southern Connecticut State University and Camesha Scruggs, PhD, of Central Connecticut State University speaking.

The panel included a very open discussion with audience members rather than a question and answer session, with several listeners chiming in with their thoughts. All three speakers began by speaking about their individual research interests before answering questions.

A majority of the questions asked centered around the future of African American studies, not only in Conn., but the entire world. This was particularly in relation to the banning of AP Black Studies in Florida. 

Carter-David commented that it’s important to include more books focused on Black studies in Conn. if the study is to continue. Scruggs agreed.

Frank Mitchell wrapped up the panel discussion with a powerful statement, saying, “Who controls the textbooks controls the narrative,” in reference to several state governments attempting to ban not only Black studies, but other studies as well. 

The entire evening encapsulated the value of Black studies and the importance it plays in learning how to properly advocate for racial justice.

By Liz Morin

English (Creative Writing) and Digital Journalism || Politics Minor