As Black communities in Brooklyn grew in number, anti-Black violence escalated in mid-19th century Manhattan. Black women in Brooklyn forged political landscapes in their communities, the nation, and the world. This three-part series looks at the long history of Black-led protest in Brooklyn. Act One shines a spotlight on both well-known and lesser known Black women leaders who fought for gender and racial equity during the decades surrounding the Civil War. From suffragists and abolitionists Maritcha Reymond Lyons, Elizabeth A. Gloucester, Susan Smith McKinney Steward, and Sarah Garnet, to anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells, experts and historians highlight the often hidden stories of women who effected change. Jami Floyd, Senior Editor for Race & Justice Unit at New York Public Radio and the Legal Editor in the WNYC Newsroom, moderates this conversation with historian Prithi Kanakamedala, curator of the exhibition “Brooklyn Abolitionists: In Pursuit of Freedom” at the former Brooklyn Historical Society, Michelle Duster, Ida B. Wells’ great-granddaughter and author of the new book Ida B. The Queen, and Kerri Greenidge, Mellon Assistant Professor in the Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora at Tufts University where she is Interim Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.
Jami Floyd is well-known as the former local host of All Things Considered and Legal Editor in the WNYC Newsroom. She now also leads WNYC’s Race & Justice unit that covers news through the prism of race, class, and social justice. With a degree from Berkeley Law School, Ms. Floyd taught law at Stanford Law School before embarking on a journalism career that spans two decades and has included stints at ABC News, CBS News, and Court TV. She has appeared as a legal and political analyst on many news outlets including CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, and PBS.
Prithi Kanakamedala is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York where she teaches U.S. History, African-American History, and the History of New York City. Her research looks at community-building, race, and citizenship in Brooklyn and New York’s 19th-century free Black communities. As a public historian she regularly gives talks and lectures and has worked with a range of cultural organizations including Danspace Project Inc, Place Matters/ City Lore, Brooklyn Historical Society (now Center for Brooklyn History at Brooklyn Public Library) where she curated the exhibition Brooklyn Abolitionists: In Pursuit of Freedom, and Weeksville Heritage Center. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Sussex and is originally from Liverpool, England.
Michelle Duster is Ida B. Wells’ great granddaughter and the author of Ida B. The Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells. She is a writer, speaker, professor, and champion of racial and gender equity. In the last dozen years, she has written, edited, or contributed to over a dozen books. She co-wrote the popular children’s history book, Tate and His Historic Dream; coedited Impact: Personal Portraits of Activism and Michelle Obama’s Impact on African American Women and Girls; and edited two books that include the writings of her great-grandmother, Ida B. Wells. She has written articles for Essence, Refinery29, HuffPo, Teen Vogue, Glamour, People, and The North Star.
Dr. Kerri Greenidge received her Doctorate in American Studies from Boston University, where her specialty included African-American history, American political history, and African-American and African diasporic literature in the post-emancipation and early modern era. Her research explores the role of African-American literature in the creation of radical Black political consciousness, particularly as it relates to local elections and Democratic populism during the Progressive Era. She has taught at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, and Emerson College. Her work includes historical research for the Wiley-Blackwell Anthology of African-American Literature, the Oxford African American Studies Center, and PBS. For nine years she worked as a historian for Boston African American National Historical Site in Boston, through which she published her first book, Boston Abolitionists (2006). Her forthcoming book Trotter: Race and Politics in Boston will be published by Norton in Spring 2019. The book, a biography of African-American activist, William Monroe Trotter, explores the history of racial thought and African American political radicalism in New England at the turn of the century. She is currently interim Director of American Studies at Tufts University, and co-director of the African American Trail Project at the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD).
This is the first of three programs presented by the Center for Brooklyn History and New York University's Brooklyn-based 370JProject, in partnership with NYU's Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation (OGI), the Center for Black Visual Culture and the Institute for Public Knowledge.
Image: Photo by Deborah Willis