History Department
History Department

Dr. Frank Guridy participates in panel at Harlem Book Festival

Mon, July 19, 2010
Dr. Frank Guridy participates in panel at Harlem Book Festival
Frank Guridy participates in panel at Harlem Book Fair

Guridy discussed his research in his recently published book, Forging Diaspora: Afro-Cubans and African-Americans in a World of Empire and Jim Crow, as part of a panel on “African-American History.” This year was the 12th anniversary of the book fair and C-SPAN2 BOOK-TV videotaped the entire fair’s events. (See link below for this particular panel’s video.)

The Schomburg Center has been in existence for 85 years. It is internationally known for its collection of materials that range from books to videos to art and multitudes of artifacts documenting black life.

It is both research library and cultural institution. And both have been an integral part of its service to the immediate community and visiting public and research scholars through the decades.

Moderator of the panel and Director of the center, Howard Dodson Jr., posed the provocative question: “Why can’t we tell the truth about the black past?” He cautioned against the too-easy mistake of accepting “what has been done to us as the essence of our history.” Dodson emphasized the ongoing learning process beyond the chronicling of events.

In his book Forging Diaspora, Guridy argues two major points about the study and interpretation of African-American history. First, he stressed, “That the study of African-American history is fundamentally a diasporic history.”

Diaspora being usually defined as the dispersal of a people from their original homeland, but in this context also “about the ongoing interactions with other African descendants throughout the world after the abolition of slavery," Guridy explained.

Secondly, he emphasized the "complicated relationship African Americans have had to U.S. imperialism." Rather than overtly resisting U.S. expansionism into Cuba, African Americans "took advantage of the avenues created by U.S. expansionism to forge relationships with Afro-Cubans."

Cuba played a central role in U.S. expansionism in the Caribbean and Central America. And because of its close geographic proximity to the U.S., made it possible for African Americans to develop unique relationships with Cubans of African descent. Guridy cited his research on Booker T. Washington's recruitment of Afro-Cubans to his Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala. as another example of diasporic interaction detailed in his book.

Guridy was a post-doctoral fellow at the Schomburg Center while conducting research for his book in 2002-03. He commented on the “sense of the rootedness of this scholarly institution in this community of Harlem” and how it had been a highlight of his academic career,  especially as a native New Yorker to do research there.

He was joined by two other panel members: Associate Professor of English, Monica L. Miller, Barnard College author of Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Black Diasporic Identity; and Professor of History at Princeton University, Colin A. Palmer, author of Eric Williams and the Making of the Modern Caribbean. Each used their research and personal experiences to shed light on Dodson’s query.

Dodson’s concluding remarks stressed the center’s importance as an anchor in the development of new knowledge about black experiences.

Story by: Anna Harris and M.G. Moore
Graphic by: M.G. Moore using detail from 2010 Harlem Book Fair poster; photo of Guridy by Marsha Miller

Related Links:
Associate Professor Frank A. Guridy
Forging Diaspora (University of North Carolina Press, 2010)
C-SPAN Book-TV’s video of panel
Guridy discusses book on African Diaspora video
John L. Warfield Center for African & African American Studies
Harlem Book Fair 2010
Schomburg Center

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