History of African American Studies at Wesleyan (2019)
In a 2019 Edition of the Wesleyan University Magazine, The history of African American Studies at Wesleyan is highlighted. The chronological exploration showcases and uplifts the administration, professors, and students who helped to build and grow the prominent program.
Ujamaa: The Wesleyan Black Student Union Meet Up (2022)The first Ujamaa meeting of the 2022-2023 school sees large turnout, as students come together to take a group photo after intellectual and cultural discussion in the Malcolm X House Basement
Unnamed (2023)Anthony Crossman ’26, an aspiring photographer and resident of the Malcolm X House shares a dark room photo he has developed for his ongoing portfolio.
My Take on Modernity and the Rhetoric Surrounding Progress.
Modernity is a complicated and nuanced idea that has generated a lot of discussion and disagreement over the years. Fundamentally speaking, modernity is frequently linked to the emergence of capitalism, industrialization, and the diffusion of Western ideals. Given the immense social, economic, and cultural transformations civilizations underwent throughout this time, it is common to refer to it as an era of progress.
The Enlightenment, a time of intellectual and cultural advancement that started in Europe in the 17th century, may be credited with giving rise to modernity. The Enlightenment established the foundation for many of the political, social, and economic developments that would come to define modernity. It was defined by stress on reason, science, and individualism. Thinkers including John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant created novel theories about human nature, society, and governance during this period that would have a significant influence on the creation of modern civilizations.
One of the primary characteristics of modernity is the emergence of capitalism, an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and the production of products and services for profit. Due to European powers’ colonization and exploitation of non-Western nations, capitalism first appeared in Europe in the 18th century and swiftly expanded to other areas of the world. Industrialization, or the process of creating industries and factories to create commodities on a massive scale, was intimately related to the advent of capitalism. Significant technological, transportation, and communication advancements brought about by industrialization fueled economic expansion.
The difficulty with the notion of what is considered “modern” is that it has and continues to be used to defend colonialism, imperialism, and other types of oppression. For instance, the notion of modernity was used to support the colonization of non-Western countries by presenting them as “backward” and in need of Western “civilization.” The exploitation of non-Western nations and the encroachment of Western institutions upon them were both justified by this theory. The colonization process resulted in the exploitation of many indigenous peoples’ resources as well as the destruction of several indigenous civilizations, which continues to have an impact on those countries today. The concept of modernity is also too linked to Western ideals and culture, ignoring the contributions of non-Western nations to human advancement.
It is necessary to redefine modernity to consider the contributions made by all cultures to the advancement of humanity. Modernity should be considered to encompass all cultures’ contributions to human development, not simply Western societies.
Acknowledging the contributions of all cultures and societies to human progress would contribute to the development of a more inclusive and diversified conception of modernity. Furthermore, it is crucial to critically assess the notion of modernity as we continue to face contemporary difficulties and to strive toward developing a more inclusive and diversified concept of human development that does not just focus on Western advancements.
Everyday Examples of Black Modernity
Black people have shaped modernity and the world we live in today, from ancient African civilizations to the African diaspora. Ancient African civilizations like Egypt and Ethiopia made crucial contributions to philosophy, mathematics, architecture, and the arts. For instance, the ancient Egyptians invented a writing system and built magnificent structures like the Pyramids and the Sphinx. African literature, dance, and music have also impacted and inspired musicians and artists all around the world. For instance, African music and rhythms are the sources of jazz, a uniquely American art form.
African American activists who were active during the American Civil Rights Movement, including Rosa Parks and Malcolm X, were instrumental in the fight for social justice and civil rights. through advocating for more social justice and equality as well as through questioning the existing quo, their activism contributed to the shaping of modern society. Additionally, throughout history, black people have significantly contributed to art, music, literature, and culture. For instance, the 1920s and 1930s’ Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that hailed the originality and accomplishments of black musicians, authors, and painters. A more diversified and inclusive cultural environment resulted from this movement’s contribution to the development of new forms of expression and the challenging of conventional cultural standards.
People all across the world have been impacted by and inspired by the vivid, dynamic cultures that Caribbean people have produced. World popular music has been greatly influenced by Caribbean music, particularly reggae and calypso. Caribbean people have also produced significant advances in industry, science, and technology. Millions of individuals all around the world have benefitted from a cataract surgery gadget developed by the Jamaican scientist Dr. Patricia Bath.
We can contribute to the development of a more inclusive and diversified perspective of human progress that acknowledges the accomplishments of all cultures and societies by recognizing the contributions of Black people to modernity. The promotion of greater cultural variety and understanding will truly aid in the challenging and eradication of preconceptions and prejudices that restrict our comprehension of the world and its inhabitants. Inequalities and injustices that continue to impact black people all across the world must be addressed, notwithstanding the numerous contributions made by Black people to modernity.
Black people’s prospects and potential continue to be severely restricted in many nations by racism, discrimination, and prejudice. But by taking a step back and acknowledging every marginalized community’s historical, contemporary, and future contributions to our society as a whole, we can help the battle against these injustices and promote a culture of justice and equity.
Primary Works Cited
Crossman, Anthony. Unnamed. Photograph. Middletown, 2023. Middletown.
Danquah, Kyla. Ujamaa Fall 2022 Meeting. Photograph. Middletown, September 15, 2022. Middletown.
Maeyama, Jocelyn, and Jesse Nasta. “A Brief Representative History of African American Studies at Wesleyan.” Wesleyan University Magazine, February 3, 2020. https://magazine.blogs.wesleyan.edu/2019/05/20/a-brief-representative-history-of-african-american-studies-at-wesleyan/.
Neal, Larry. “Larry Neal Tapes.” Lecture, 2023.
Wesleyan University West African Drumming and Dance Concert. YouTube. YouTube, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXeMMQHFoQs&t=580s.
Williams, Kai. “The Ankh,” 2016.
Zepeda, Samara. Black Raspberry Performance. Photograph. Middletown, 2023. Black Raspberry.
Secondary Works Cited
Afro@Digital. California Newsreel, 2018. https://newsreel.org/video/afro-digital.
The Ankh. “Fall 2016.” Issuu, April 17, 2017. https://issuu.com/theankh1/docs/fall2016compressedissuu/1.
“Changing the Face of Medicine | Patricia E. Bath.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 3, 2015. https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_26.html.
Gilroy, Paul Black Atlantic: Modernity and double consciousness. NY, NY: VERSO BOOKS, 2022.
Lahut, Jake. “Gone but Not Forgotten: A Mocon Retrospective.” The Wesleyan Argus, 2017. http://wesleyanargus.com/2017/05/08/gone-but-not-forgotten-a-mocon-retrospective/.
“Larry Neal.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. Accessed March 4, 2023. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/larry-neal.
Maeyama, Jocelyn. “‘Before 1619: Lineages and Legacies’: Black History Month Committee Commences Programming.” The Wesleyan Argus, 2020. http://wesleyanargus.com/2020/02/03/black-history-month-explores-before-1619-lineages-and-legacies/.
Rosenberg, Gabriel. “Malcolm X House Increases Presence.” The Wesleyan Argus, 2012. http://wesleyanargus.com/2012/10/25/malcolm-x-house-revamps-efforts-to-engage-students-community/.
Smith, Emma, and Lia Franklin. “Ujamaa, Wesleyan’s Black Student Union, Issues List of Demands to Administration.” The Wesleyan Argus, 2020. http://wesleyanargus.com/2020/09/11/ujamaa-wesleyans-black-student-union-issues-list-of-demands-to-administration/.