This one-day symposium, Testify, Witness and Act: Black Women's Resistance, provides the opportunity for scholarly engagement with centuries of black women’s embrace of freedom and refusal of dehumanizing definitions and practices. Women have been at the forefront of liberatory religious practices, social and political undertakings, and oral and other cultural traditions in black communities and in society at large. They have demanded equality with men, racial justice for their communities, respect in their workplaces, and economic security for their children. Black women’s history reveals pain but also subversions, strengths, and triumphs.
This symposium, co-sponsored by Gender and Women’s Studies and Africana Studies, provides a series of scholars from Bowdoin and from several other institutions the opportunity to explore the long history of black women’s resistance. Beginning with their refusals of enslavement and ending with the activism that black women call on to usher in the 21st century, these scholars engage themselves in a kind of refusal, one that resists marginalization and centers black women’s voices and experiences in historical and interdisciplinary scholarship.
The agenda features Bowdoin faculty from Gender and Women’s Studies and Africana Studies (Judith Casselberry, Jessica Johnson, Brian Purnell, Jen Scanlon) in addition to four invited scholars: Aisha Finch (UCLA), Jessica Millward (UC Irvine), Salamishah Tillet (Penn) and Bettye Collier-Thomas (Temple). The presenters will discuss their work and facilitate discussion among all of the symposium’s participants.
The day-long event will be followed by a keynote address by Prof. Collier-Thomas, in celebration of the release of her highly acclaimed Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion. Professor of History and Director of the Temple University Center for African American History and Culture, Bettye Collier-Thomas was also the founding Executive Director of the Bethune Museum-Archives Inc., National Historic Site, which was recently incorporated into the National Park System. In this position, she developed the nation's first museum and archives for Black women's history.