Of Black Nationalism


Tommie Shelby, our black nationalism professor and author of "We Who Are Dark."

Tommie Shelby, our black nationalism professor and author of "We Who Are Dark."


"We Who Are Dark"

"We Who Are Dark"

What can be better than starting the semester talking about David Walker and ending it talking about Chuck D.? That is what happened in my Black Nationalism Class, taught by Professor Tommie Shelby, one of the better young profs on campus. Check out Vognar’s blog for a re-cap of the last class.
When I looked at the syllabus at the beginning of the term, I was intrigued by the fact that we would cover nationalist figures like Martin Delaney, W.E.B. Du Bois, Huey P. Newton, Frederick Douglass, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. I assumed that we would read their speeches, study their histories as black nationalists and call it a day. But Shelby often reminded us that he was not a historian, but a philosophy.
Check out his book, “We Who Are Dark.”
So, as the course description states, the class: “Examines the family of African American social philosophies generally classified under the broad rubric “black nationalism.” Topics to be explored include the meaning of black collective self-determination; the relationship between black identity and black solidarity; and the significance of Africa for Black Nationalist ideals.”
This was a two-hour class, held once a week.
Shelby would spend roughly the first hour lecturing and leave the second hour open for a back and forth discussion, based on the readings and lectures. Wesley and Tina always had interesting things to say in class. As did the sister from Italy and the brother from Africa.
Shelby was actually one of the first professors I met on campus. Chris Vognar, Thabo, Marv Black and I were touring the African American studies department, when we happened upon his office. He was mad cool, considering that four big dudes had literally bummed rushed his office. He told us about the class and we were all down. In fact, we all enrolled in the class – and only Marvin had to drop. (You know, professional basketball player and all).
Thabo and I are planning to take his course next semester on W.E.B. Du Bois, (surprisingly, the first course taught here at Harvard about the school’s first black Ph.D.)
On several occasions this semester, Chris, Thabo and I met Shelby for drinks and dinner. If you saw us and didn’t know he was our professor, you would have assumed it was just four guys hanging out talking about music, basketball, classes, Africa and nationalism. Which is what it was.
I think we are about the same age and with our similar backgrounds, he reminds me a lot of some of the people I went to college with – which is a good thing. Cause I went to school with a lot of good brothers. And Shelby is a good brother.

Published in: on December 20, 2008 at 3:34 am  Leave a Comment  

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