"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle."

        -- Martin Luther King Jr.


Transition Magazine Special Issue on Alex Haley's Roots: Observations on the 40th Anniversary

Call for Papers—Transition Magazine Special Issue

Guest Editors: Erica Ball and Kellie Carter Jackson

Reconsidering Roots:

Oberservations on the 40th Anniversary 

When the television series Roots premiered in 1977, Americans across the United States tuned in to watch the story of an enslaved African American family’s continuing quest for freedom. Not only did the eight-part series exceed all expectations for ratings, but the drama garnered 37 Emmy nominations, ultimately winning nine. With over 100 million viewers tuning in to watch the finale, Roots became the most-watched television event of its day, and secured a place in television history. Roots put names, faces, and histories to what had too often been a monolithic block only referred to as “slaves,” forcing viewers to consider, or reconsider the meaning of “the peculiar institution” and its enduring impact on American culture. In some respects, however, Roots may obscure certain complexities, and even reinforce its own set of myths about the history of slavery in the United States.

With the 40th anniversaries of the novel and the television series fast approaching, we feel that the time is ripe to consider the impact and continuing significance of this cultural phenomenon. In remembering Roots, how can the public gain greater insight into the social-political context of its debut, and understanding of its contemporary resurgence as a classic on black television? This special issue on Roots aims to deconstruct how this TV mini-series both complicated and simplified our understanding of American slavery, and to explore the remarkable tenacity of the film’s visual, cultural, and political impact on America and abroad. We seek essays that interrogate the historical impact of Roots, as well as those that assess its place in contemporary U.S. culture. We are particularly interested in topics that examine Roots in the Age of Obama or Roots’ reception outside of the United States.

We will also consider full submissions of short fiction, poetry, and original artwork on the theme. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words between now and December 1, 2015 to Guest Editors Erica L. Ball (California State University, Fullerton) at eball@fullerton.edu and Kellie Carter Jackson (Hunter College) at kellie.jackson@hunter.cuny.edu, Those invited to send full submissions will be notified by January 2016.  Completed essays should be between 2500-6000 words and will be due April 1st 2016.  Invitation to submit is not a guarantee of publication.

A note on style: We expect nonfiction pieces published in Transition to display the virtues of high-quality literary fiction, especially narrative prose, which leads the reader naturally from one sentence to the next. Rich description and attention to voice, tone, imagery, and word choice are all appreciated. We also welcome provocative points of view that stimulate debate. Please see Transition’s full submission guidelines, and our online archive of sample articles, when crafting your proposal.

As a nonacademic journal, Transition does not run footnotes or give strict bibliographic documentation for the ideas expressed in our essays. Academic clichés, locutions, and jargon should be avoided. All participants should familiarize themselves with published articles in the open access archive on the Transition website, or to read a recent issue (available on JSTOR) to gain a sense of both the content and style that we seek. Contributors should also expect to revise after Editorial review. More information, with genre-specific guidelines, can be found here https://transition.submittable.com/submit 



Name Five: Single Stories of African American History, Cambridge Public Library

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The Roots of Liberty: The Haitian Revolution and the American Civil War


Freedom Rising: 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and African American Military Service Conference

Image: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment at Fort Wagner, Morris Island, South Carolina, July 18, 1863.  Mural at the Recorder of Deeds building, District of Columbia, 1943.

The second founding of the United States took place in the midst of the great sacrifice and destruction of the American Civil War. Before the war, slavery was protected by the Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that no African American possessed any right that white men were bound to respect. During the war, blacks served in the armed forces with distinction, making a Union victory possible. After the war, slavery was extinguished and black men gained the right to vote—key to full citizenship—and many won election to state legislatures in the North and South and to both houses of Congress. The key document of this transformation is the Emancipation Proclamation.

In celebration of this historic milestone, Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, office of President Drew Faust, the Houghton Library, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the Departments of African and African American Studies and American Civilization are joining with the National Park Service’s Boston National Historical Park, Boston African American National Historic Site and with the Museum of African American History and the Underground Railway Theater to celebrate the impact of the Proclamation and the recruitment of black soldiers in a hemispheric-wide context.
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"The Strength of the Army is the Strength of the Nation:” A Panel Discussion on Race, Politics, and Academia at West Point


Guest Speakers:

Col. James T. Seidule, West Point Military Academy

Cadet Jamar Wells, West Point Military Academy

Commentator: Peniel Joseph, Tufts University

Moderator: Kellie Carter Jackson, Harvard University

Who: Open to the Public

When: Wednesday, February 20th 4:00-5:30pm

Where: The Mather House Senior Common Room, 10 Cowperthwaite Street, Harvard University, Cambridge

Reception to follow sponsored by the Black Student Association (Coast Cafe)