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Reflecting Black Symposium

Reflecting Black Symposium logo with Sankofa bird

Sankofa is an African word derived from the Akan tribe in Ghana. It means to “go back and fetch it.” This symbol portrays a mythical bird with its head turned backwards taking an egg off its back. Sankofa reminds people of African descent to look backward, to reflect on their essence, before moving forward to the future.

Thursday, October 24, 2019
8:00 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.

The symposium is free and open to scholars, students and the public.

About this Symposium

This year, 2019, marks the four hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first documented Africans to British North America. Undoubtedly, the past four centuries of African American life have been replete with trauma, struggle, and resiliency. The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of History, Humanities, and Languages, and Center for Critical Race Studies is sponsoring a symposium celebrating 400 Years of African American Life and History.

In the spirit of Sankofa, the symposium admonishes critical reflection on the centrality of race and racism throughout United States history as well as other structural systems of oppression. The symposium also aims to celebrate the beauty and richness of African American culture and highlight achievements and contributions African Americans have made to various sectors in the United States since 1619.

The Reflecting Black Committee has selected scholars and emerging scholars doing research in Africana Studies from a wide range of colleges and universities throughout Texas and the United States to present papers at the symposium, including: Yale, Vanderbilt, Delaware State, University of Oklahoma, University of Colorado-Boulder, Pepperdine University, the College of New Jersey, Rice, UT Austin, UH, UT San Antonio, Prairie View A&M, Stephen F. Austin, UHD, and HCC. The panels center on the following themes:

  • Agency Among Enslaved and Free Blacks in the Antebellum Era
  • African Americans and Educational Systems
  • Examining Black Communities
  • The African Diaspora
  • African Americans and Mental Health
  • Art, Literature, and Religion as Tools of Resistance
  • Grappling with the Exploitation of Black Bodies
  • Post Civil Right Activism and Resistance
  • Engaging Intersections of Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • The Prison Industrial Complex
  • Black Feminism and Social Media Activism
  • African Roots and Black Culture

Opening Plenary, Keynote Speaker, 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Keynote Address: Dr. Alexander Byrd, Associate Professor of History and Associate Dean of Humanities for Undergraduate Projects at Rice University
Black and Brown Freedom Movements, 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Dr. Sonia Lee, Associate Professor of History at Indiana University in Bloomington, IL

Black to the Future, Imagining Futures of African Americans, 4:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Dr. Rachel Quinn, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Mr. Charles Savage, Executive Director of the Urban Enrichment Institute
Ms. Nicola Springer, Vice President and the PreK-12 Education Team Leader at Kirksey Architecture

Symposium Speaker Information

Plenary Speaker Bios

Please address questions to Dr. Jonathan Chism via e-mail at

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