February 14, 2023

On February 23rd at 6pm EST, the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, History Department and College of Humanities and Fine Arts, in collaboration with the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, present the 2023 James Baldwin Lecture. Bill Fletcher Jr., principal at Common Forces LLC and former president of TransAfrica Forum, will deliver the lecture, titled “None of Us is Free Unless All Are Free: Anti-Imperialism and the Black Radical Tradition.” Free and open to the public, the lecture will stream online through Zoom. [Note that this event is now online only] 

From joining with First Nations peoples to contest European settlement to protesting the annexation of foreign territory, the political struggles waged by African Americans have fostered a vibrant Black Radical Tradition consistently opposed to U.S. imperialism. The lecture will trace this history from the 1600s through the 1970s, demonstrating how those drawing on this tradition have not only protested U.S. invasions of other nations as a matter of principle, but have also highlighted the interconnections between injustices waged abroad and oppression at home. In doing so, this tradition has often served as the basis for solidarity with those struggling against U.S. imperialism, a solidarity that has helped to inform radical movements here against patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalist exploitation.

Headshot of Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr. has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college, he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staff person in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941; the co-author (with Fernando Gapasin) of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice; and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the web.

The James Baldwin Lecture is co-presented by the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, the Department of History, and the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and addresses issues connected to social, economic, and political justice and underpinnings in institutional racism. The lecture honors the late James Baldwin, who taught at UMass for several years, from 1983-1986. It was established by and made possible with generous support from History Department alumnus Dr. Allen J. Davis ’68. 

This event is also part of UMass Amherst’s Black History Month celebrations and a campus-wide commemoration of the birthday of W.E.B. Du Bois, whose papers are at UMass Special Collections and University Archives and who will figure prominently in Fletcher’s talk. 

The event also launches the spring semester return of the Feinberg Family Distinguished Series, Confronting Empire, which is exploring histories of U.S. imperialism and anti-imperialist resistance. The Feinberg Series is presented by the UMass Amherst Department of History in collaboration with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy and more than three dozen university and community and university partners. Visit the Feinberg Series website for more information about the series.

The lecture is free and open to the public. The event will open with remarks by Professor Joye Bowman, a historian of Africa and Senior Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and by Professor Yolanda Covington-Ward, Chair of W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies. A public question and answer will follow the lecture. Recordings will be available on the Feinberg Series website after the event, with Spanish interpretation and closed captioning also available live.

For more information and to register: bit.ly/2023-baldwin-lecture