Abolition Democracy Initiative

Abolition Democracy Initiative

2) The Vèvè Clark Institute for Engaged Scholars of African American Studies prepares a small cadre of undergraduate students majoring in the discipline of African American Studies to meet the rigor and intellectual demands of top research university graduate programs, professional schools and postgraduate careers. Clark Institute scholars attend monthly seminar meetings and weekly workshops and gain access to a variety of resources to support their academic development, including working closely with African American Studies faculty and graduate students. More information HERE.
3) Research for Reimagining Community Safety provides research-based recommendations to organizers who are on the frontlines of building community-led visions of safety, well-being, and justice in the Bay Area. The project is led Nikki Jones and James Burch, Anti Police-Terror Project Policy Director and inaugural member of the City of Oakland’s “Reimagining Public Safety Task Force,” and supported by the Spencer Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation, in addition to the ADI. At Berkeley, Professor Jones leads an interdisciplinary group of graduate and undergraduate students working to generate research-based recommendations on alternative responses to community safety and programs that address the root causes of violence in the Bay Area and across the country.
4) The Black Panther Party Elders Project, led by Professor Ula Taylor, will interview former members of the Black Panther Party and activist elders living in the Bay Area. Undergraduates will be trained to conduct interviews and create an archive of completed interviews, housed at Doe library. Professor Taylor, along with History Professor Waldo Martin, will also lead The Black at CAL Student, Faculty, and Staff Project, which will bring together the historical artifacts of Black life and culture at Berkeley. Contributing to the Chancellor’s commitment to researching the history of slavery and settler-colonialism at Cal, undergrad and graduate students will produce a pamphlet documenting and detailing the complexity of these histories and experiences.
5) The Abolition Democracy Reading Group brings together an interdisciplinary group of graduate students to discuss recent and canonical texts in the area of abolition democracy, led by Professors Nikki Jones and Tianna Paschel and supported by the Social Sciences Division’s Advancing Faculty Diversity Initiative. The group’s focus on abolition democracy stems from the canonical work of W.E.B. Du Bois, who identified the failure of Reconstruction as a failure of the nation to provide the types of social institutions post-emancipation that could actually guarantee equality, safety and security for all in a multi-racial democracy. More recent work from emerging scholars and activists helps us to identify the ways that Du Bois’ early critique of white supremacy connects with emerging scholarship on abolition, anti-blackness, and the afterlives of slavery.

Featured Events

Black Voices in the Shadows of the Big House: Folk artist Clementine Hunter’s challenge to southern gentility narratives of slavery and slave cabins

Stephen Small, Director, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, and Professor, African American Studies, UC Berkeley

With Ula Y. Taylor, Professor of African American Studies & 1960 Chair of Undergraduate Education, UC Berkeley, as respondent

Tens of thousands of plantations, buildings, work structures and gardens currently comprise a tourist infrastructure of the southern heritage industry. Louisiana is one of the most prominent and frequently visited states that benefit from this tourism and has more than sixty heritage sites housed in former slave plantations. These sites contain the remains, restorations, reconstructions and replicas of antebellum slave cabins and slave quarters. In this presentation, I focus on three plantation heritage sites with 16 slave cabins located in the parish of Natchitoches, in northwest Louisiana: Oakland Plantation, Magnolia Plantation Complex and Melrose Plantation. The slave cabins and the enslaved women and men that lived in them are addressed in all three heritage sites, but information about them is inferior and subordinate to information about elite white men and women. A distinctive feature of Melrose Plantation is that it was owned by legally free people of color who owned more enslaved people than any other legally free people of color in the entire Antebellum south. The slave cabins at Melrose are symbolically annihilated – they are not presented as slave cabins but as writers’ cabins occupied by white writers in the 1930s. But a powerful and compelling counter narrative can be found in the artwork of folk artist Clementine Hunter, whose paintings offer a social critique of southern gentility and whose work centers the importance of Black life, Black culture, Black celebration and Black joy. Her work reveals how and why southern gentility narratives can be questioned and challenged.

Doors open at 11:30 and close at 12:15. No admission after 12:15.


510 642-0813

Maxwell Vanderwarker, maxwellvan@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813


 Bells on the Hill: Rage and Slavery’s Postbellum Madness 

Professor Micah Khater 

Monday, October 2nd
12:15 to 1:45 pm
Social Sciences Building, Room 650 Albert Johnson Conference Room

 This paper examines how objects from slavery forged a relationship between the antebellum and the postbellum and how formerly enslaved people contested these invocations of the past through material remembrance, rage, and stories of white madness. By tracing the life of one object, the bell rack, I explore the profound complexities of theorizing madness, disability, and slavery. Insanity is often marshalled against the possibility of Black rage. But what happens when descriptions of “insane” emerge out of Black rage instead of as its point of erasure? Where might we locate explanatory power in stories about white psychosis, but not as a condemnation of madness itself? 

To receive a copy of the paper, RSVP for lunch provided during the event (including dietary restrictions), and/or request an accommodation to more fully participate, please register at the following link by September 17: 



400 Years of African American History Symposium

This day-long symposium will kick off a year of events at UC Berkeley to mark the 400 year anniversary of the beginning of slavery in North America. The events are being co-organized by the Haas Institute, the African American studies and history departments, the African American Student Development Center, and the Black Staff & Faculty Organization.

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