Special Issue of Genealogy "Sankofa; or ‘Go Back and Fetch it’: Merging Genealogy and Africana Studies"

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Kameelah L. Martin & Elizabeth J. West
contact email: 

Dear Colleagues,

With the overwhelming popularity of genealogy themed television, genetic genealogy testing, and the enduring aphorism of Sankofa, people of African descent are consistently negating the belief that the ancestry of the enslaved in the United States and their descendants is for the most part unknowable. In the 21st century, the descendants of the enslaved are truly able to “go back and fetch” the origins of their past as a means to govern, assertively, their future. The frankness with which Edward Ball confronts slaveowners’ blood ties to their chattel property in Slaves in the Family (1998) as well as the success of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s PBS series “African American Lives” and “Finding Your Roots” are equally responsible for the increased interest in genealogy as both a hobby and academic pursuit. More than ever, people of the African Diaspora are better able to identify and reconcile with the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade’s erasure of their lineage, familial bonds, and complicated ancestries of enslavement.

African American genealogy is a growing field of inquiry, which carries a distinct set of research challenges, methodological approaches, and collective memories. It is at constant interplay with the histories, cultures, and theories of Africana Studies. A focus on African American genealogy is, indeed, an exercise in the study of the Black experience. We see this readily with the recent acclaim of Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns(2010) and the gut-wrenching truth of Saidiya Hartman’s Lose Your Mother (2008). Other academicians, too, are shifting their scholarly focus to investigations of African American lineage and how it can humanize our understanding of race and the imperfect past of the Black Atlantic world. Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010), Lawrence P. Jackson’s My Father’s Name (2012) and Lisa Lindsay and John Wood Sweet’s Biography and the Black Atlantic (2013) demonstrate just how seamlessly African American genealogy, genetics, and humanistic inquiry merge to produce some of the most cutting-edge research of the last decade.

We enthusiastically announce that Genealogy is now accepting submissions for a special issue on this innovative turn in interdisciplinary projects across the academy. Titled after the Akan mythology in which a bird flies with its head turned backwards to symbolize the exigency of reconciling one’s past with the future, Sankofa; or ‘Go Back and Fetch It’: Merging Genealogy with Africana Studies invites essays from scholars, genealogists, and independent researchers that apply genealogical research to a wide range of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the African Diaspora. We seek to initiate a transnational discourse in which innovations in genealogy research such as DNA analysis, the Freedman’s Bureau digitization project, and online communities widen the scope of what we know and what we can learn as we consider the future of Africana Studies. We hope to cast our net wide and far to include humanities, social sciences, and STEM research.

We encourage submissions that address topics including, but not limited to the following:

* African DNA analysis testing
* Recovering or preserving slave cemeteries
* Professionalizing genealogy in Africana Studies Programs
* Afro-Caribbean genealogies
* Afro-European genealogies
* Cultural Trauma inherited through DNA
* Genealogy using the Federal WPA archives
* Genealogy of the first African American President of the United States
* Enslaved ancestors of Michelle Obama
* African American descendants of America’s founding fathers
* African American genealogical societies
* African American and Native American genealogical relationships
* Forensic science and black genealogy
* Confronting white slave-owning descendants
* Understanding Haplo group Identification
* Oral histories as genealogy
* Afro-Jewish ancestries
* Using genealogy to reconstruct history
* Genealogy and patterns of migration
* Why genealogy of historic black figures matters today
* Black genealogy as public history
* African ancestry of England’s Queen Charlotte

Prof. Dr. Kameelah L. Martin
Prof. Dr. Elizabeth J. West
Guest Editors


Manuscript Submission Information


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Genealogy is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) is waived for well-prepared manuscripts submitted to this issue. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.



  • black genealogy
  • Africana Studies
  • slave ancestry
  • African ancestry
  • DNA analysis,
  • black Migration
  • black Atlantic
  • black biography
  • oral history