Arts Criticism in the Black Press During the Age of Jim Crow

deadline for submissions: 
November 15, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Kristen Turner (NC State University) and Lucy Caplan (Yale University)
contact email: 

Conference Dates: March 10-11, 2017

Location: Yale University, New Haven, CT

Keynote Speaker: Kim Gallon, Assistant Professor of History, Purdue University & Founder of the Black Press Research Collective

Between Reconstruction and the end of legalized Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s, the black press flourished in the United States. Critics and reporters on the arts beat not only brought to light the creative output of black musicians, actors, filmmakers, writers, and visual artists, but also investigated the role the arts played in the long struggle against oppression, as well as the economic and cultural impact of the arts on black communities and the United States as a whole. In recent years, digitization efforts have made the archives of the black press more easily accessible than ever before, opening up exciting new opportunities for scholarly inquiry. This conference seeks to bring together scholars from diverse disciplines to study the coverage of the arts in the black press during the era of legalized segregation. By focusing on the black press, we hope to highlight African Americans’ critical responses to the heterogeneous artistic scene of black America, which thrived even within an oppressive environment that constantly discounted and disrespected black lives. In doing so, we seek to understand in greater depth how the black press might illuminate new facets and/or alternative narratives of black cultural and social history.

We welcome papers that explore questions that include but are not limited to:

  • Consideration of a specific critic and/or artist
  • The relationship between gender and the practice of arts criticism
  • Arts criticism in global and diasporic perspectives
  • The black press’ relationship to other types of African American and/or white print culture
  • The role of the digital humanities in the study of the black press  
  • The arts and the politics of respectability
  • Long-term trends in arts criticism in the black press
  • Coverage of amateur & everyday artistic practices
  • The black press and collective memory in African American communities

And the list goes on….

We invite submissions from scholars at any stage of their careers, including graduate students and independent scholars, for 20-minute conference presentations. Please submit an abstract of 250 words to conference organizers Lucy Caplan and Kristen Turner ( by November 15, 2016. Include the title of the presentation and your full contact details.  Panel submissions are also welcome; please include a 100-word description of the panel topic as well as abstracts for individual papers. Visit our website at