Afro-American Research Topics at UMass Amherst Unique Among Peer Universities

AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts is one of only three colleges in the country which offers a Ph.D. in Afro-American studies, and it is attracting increasing numbers of older black men to campus. Following is a list of research projects related to Afro-American studies now ongoing. All telephone numbers are for the 413 area code unless otherwise designated.

The Blues in Music and Literature – Afro-American studies professor Steve Tracy is the author of an acclaimed biography that explores the influence of blues music on the work of Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes. He is also an accomplished harmonica player who played on the Johnny Carson show as a teen-ager. This summer Tracy is involved in two major projects involving blues music. He is co-editing the compilation "The Complete Works of Langston Hughes" (University of Missouri Press), and he is working on an anthology of writings about the blues, "Play Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader" (University of Massachusetts Press). 545-3275 (O) or 256-1493 (H).

Black Nationalism – UMass Afro-American studies professors John H. Bracey Jr. and Ernest Allen Jr. are compiling a six-volume series of materials drawn from black radical and nationalist organizations and individuals from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s. "United or Perish: The Contours of Black Radical and Nationalist Thought, 1954-1975" will be published by UMass Press and will focus on topics such as: black women’s issues, cultural and religious nationalism, criminal justice and the prison system, and the Black Panther parties. Bracey 545-5160 (O) or 549-3642 (H). Allen 545-2751 (O) or 253-5254 (H).

Blacks and Jews – In a related vein, John Bracey and UMass education professor Maurianne Adams are co-editing an anthology of writings about blacks and Jews in America, also to be published by UMass Press. "Strangers and Neighbors: Relations Between Blacks and Jews in the U.S." will look at the intertwined, sometimes troubled histories of the two minority groups, exploring the roots of black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism as well as the common struggles of the two peoples as they fought for civil rights. Adams 545-1194 (O) or 253-3479 (H).

Martin Luther King’s Movement – Sociology professor Gerald Platt has been immersed in the archives of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta where he has been studying letters – both positive and negative – written to Dr. King. Platt is using these letters to show how movements are created through the joined visions of many individuals. "I’ve found that a movement is multidimensional, that people create for themselves their own conception of a movement and justify their participation in it on these grounds," Platt says. "Even among the segregationists, for whom I have little sympathy, their conception of segregated social life was polychromatic. People were loosely tied to these movements, sometimes sharing positions with others, other times off in their own orbits. It was much more complicated than a single mindset." 545-0456 (O) or 586-8357 (H).