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Oxford African American Studies Center

William Sanders Scarborough and the enduring legacy of black classical scholarship

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) was founded in 1881 as a place “where young scholars might carry on the study of Greek thought and life to the best advantage.” Today, the ASCSA is a center for research and teaching on all aspects of Greece, from antiquity to the present. Its campus in Athens […]

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Exploring the seven principles of Kwanzaa: a playlist

Beginning the 26th of December, a globe-spanning group of millions of people of African descent will celebrate Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival of communitarian values created by scholar Maulana Karenga in 1966. The name of the festival is adapted from a Swahili phrase that refers to “the first fruits,” and is meant to recall ancient African harvest celebrations.

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Black History Month: a reading list

February marks the celebration of Black History Month in the United States and Canada, an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S history. Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life, which initiated the first variation of Black History month, titled, Negro History Week in 1926 during the second week of February. The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History expanded the February celebration in the early 1970’s, renaming it Black History Month, however, it was not until 1976 that every president designated the month of February as Black History Month.

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Defiant rulers and (real) superheroes: Black History Month

The first incarnation of Black History Month began in 1926, when Carter G. Woodson, historian and author, established an observance during the second week of February coinciding with the birthdays of social reformer Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. The month-long celebration was then proposed at Kent State University, Ohio, in February 1969, beginning the following year.

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In celebration of twentieth century African American literature

Since the first poems published by former slaves Phyllis Wheatley and Jupiter Hammon around the time of the American Revolution, African American literature has played a vital role in the history and culture of the United States. The slave narratives of figures such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Wilson became a driving force for abolitionism before the Civil War, and the tumultuous end of Reconstruction brought about the exploration of new genres and themes during the height of the Jim Crow era.

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Exploring the Scottish and African diasporas

Since 1801, the fifth anniversary of his death, January 25 has become synonymous with the poet Robert Burns, widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland and celebrated worldwide. One of the lesser-known aspects of Burns’ life is that he almost moved to Jamaica to become an overseer; his tumultuous relationship with ‘ungrateful’ Jean Armour also attributed to his resolution to sail as an emigrant to Jamaica.

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From segregation to the Supreme Court: the life and work of Thurgood Marshall

Marshall (2017) recounts one of the most contentious Supreme Court cases in American history, represented by Thurgood Marshall, who would later serve as the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Directed by Reginald Hudlin, with Chadwick Boseman playing the title role, the film establishes Marshall’s greatest legal triumph, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the Court declared the laws allowing for separate but equal public facilities (including public schools) inherently unconstitutional. The case, handed down on 17 May 1954, signalled the end of racial segregation in America and the beginning of the American civil rights movement. In 2013, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Editor in Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, spoke with Larry S. Gibson, Professor of Law at the University of Maryland, whose book Young Thurgood: The Making of a Supreme Court Justice recounts the personal and public events that shaped Marshall’s work.

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From Harlem to Wakanda: on Luke Cage and Black Panther

While watching the first episode of Luke Cage, I noticed something of a minor miracle. Starting from the amazing opening credits sequence, you could actually count the minutes before a single non-black face graced the screen. Every character of consequence, heroic or villainous, was black. Not only that, they were characters well-versed in blackness, however stereotypical.

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Home-coming

At the intersection of State and Washington Streets in the Warehouse District of downtown Peoria, a city of about 116,000 that sits halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, stands a nine-foot-tall bronze likeness of the city’s most infamous native son. If you were a visitor, in town to hang out along the up-and-coming riverfront or to visit Caterpillar, the only Fortune 500 company headquartered in the city, you would be forgiven

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The Paradoxical Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali’s funeral and memorial service brought together a seemingly incongruous cast of characters, once again spotlighting the many contradictions that have made it so difficult for commentators and biographers to extract a realistic assessment of his life. Even with a staggering amount written about him, Ali leaves behind a contested image largely characterized by misinterpretation.

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W.E.B. Du Bois and the literature of upheaval

There is a moment in the George Miller film Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) that has stuck with me over the two decades since I first saw it. A bedraggled Max (Mel Gibson) is escorted through the crumbling desert outpost of Bartertown.

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#OscarsSoWhite: new branding for an old problem

In 1996, decades before the trending hashtag, Reverend Jesse Jackson led a boycott protesting the lack of diversity at the Oscars. Having encouraged attendees to wear a rainbow ribbon in support of the issue, he was ridiculed for his efforts.

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Race: Jesse Owens and the African American tradition

Patterned on other sports dramas about race and the freedom rights struggle, such as Remember the Titans, Glory Road, We Are Marshall, The Express, and 42, Race tells the story of Jesse Owens’ preparation and stunning performance at the 1936 Summer Olympics at Berlin, Germany. However, while Owens follows a long tradition of unsung African American heroes, many remain unfamiliar with the details surrounding his rise to prominence.

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How well do you know Black History?

First established in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson with the support of the Association for the Study for Negro Life, Negro History Week took place on the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two men whose actions greatly influenced the black population in America.

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