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  • Historical News and Notices


The following appointees have been named to the SHA’s Membership Committee for 2020: Kelly Kennington, Auburn University, chair; Erik B. Alexander, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville; Julia Brock, University of Alabama; Nikki Brown, University of New Orleans; Beatrice Burton, Human Enterprises, South Carolina; A. Glenn Crothers, University of Louisville; Brian Daugherity, Virginia Commonwealth University; Selena Sanderfer Doss, Western Kentucky University; Shannon Eaves, College of Charleston; Robert Elder, Baylor University; Kristen Epps, University of Central Arkansas; Andrew Fialka, Middle Tennessee State University; Lisa Tendrich Frank, University of Florida; Jeff Frederick, University of North Carolina, Pembroke; Timothy Fritz, Mount St. Mary’s University; Elijah Gaddis, Auburn University; Darren E. Grem, University of Mississippi; Luke E. Harlow, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Mark D. Hersey, Mississippi State University; Kelly Jones, Arkansas Tech University; Andrew W. Kahrl, University of Virginia; Matthew Karp, Princeton University; Allison N. Madar, University of Oregon; Adam Malka, University of Oklahoma; Noeleen McIlvenna, Wright State University; Julie Mujic, Denison University; Giuliana Perrone, University of California, Santa Barbara; K. Stephen Prince, University of South Florida; Ryan Quintana, Wellesley College; Whitney N. Stewart, University of Texas, Dallas; Andrew Torget, University of North Texas; Felicity Turner, Georgia Southern University; Jason Morgan Ward, Emory University; Emily West, University of Reading; and Michael E. Woods, Marshall University.


Renowned scholar of African American history and culture Sterling Stuckey Jr. died on August 15, 2018, in Riverside, California. Stuckey’s ground-breaking scholarship transformed our collective understanding of slavery and the African diaspora. Dwelling at the intersections of history, memory, literature, music, and folklore, his methodological approach to the black past paved the way for the interdisciplinary turn of the late twentieth century.

I had the pleasure of knowing Sterling Stuckey in the last decade of his life. Sterling was an emeritus colleague of mine at University of California, Riverside. His Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (New York, 1987) was the first history book I was assigned to read as an undergraduate in the 1990s, before I ever imagined myself a historian. Over a decade later, I shared a hallway with Sterling at UC Riverside; years after retirement, he maintained a fastidious daily writing routine, writing the biography of Paul Robeson. In those years, I also came to know Sterling as a generous mentor and gifted storyteller.

Ples Sterling Stuckey Jr. was born in Memphis on March 2, 1932, to Ples Sterling and poet Elma Earline Johnson Stuckey. Following the family’s migration to Chicago in 1945, Stuckey studied political science at Northwestern [End Page 983] University, while working part-time as a teacher and postal clerk. After earning his bachelor’s degree in 1955, Stuckey taught elementary and high school before returning to Northwestern for graduate studies in history in the 1960s. As the civil rights movement took off, Stuckey served as director for the Congress of Racial Equality’s Mid-Western Region; he cofounded and chaired CORE’s Emergency Relief Committee, chaired the Chicago Freedom Rider Committee, and co-chaired the Chicago youth wing of A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Now. Weaving scholarship and activism, Stuckey cowrote the history section of the Mississippi Summer Project curriculum; he cofounded the Amistad Society, “a Committee on Afro American History and Culture”; and he joined the Institute of the Black World, facilitating the rise of Black Studies programs.

Stuckey’s scholarly impact began with his 1968 article, “Through the Prism of Folklore: The Black Ethos in Slavery” (Massachusetts Review, 9 [Summer 1968], 417–37), published while he was still a graduate student. In this groundbreaking article—reprinted nineteen times since—Stuckey argues that African origins were essential to understanding African American culture and resistance, including, as the late Clement Alexander Price has written, “what Africans in America did, how they moved their bodies, what they remembered, and how they framed their aspirations and frustrations” (“On Anchoring a Generation of Scholars: P. Sterling Stuckey and Nationalist Persuasion in African American History,” Journal of African American History, 91 [Autumn 2006], 387). At the time, the American historiography of slavery had been dominated for a half-century by racist works that perpetuated the mythology...


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