Midtown Scholar Bookstore-Cafe
Award-winning Independent Booksellers | Since 2001

Who's in town

Back to All Events

An Afternoon with Keisha Blain

The Midtown Scholar Bookstore is pleased to welcome Historian Keisha Blain to Harrisburg as she presents her new book, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom.

This event is free and open to the public.

Blain_set-the-world-on-fire_cover (1).jpg

About the Book:

In 1932, Mittie Maude Lena Gordon spoke to a crowd of black Chicagoans at the old Jack Johnson boxing ring, rallying their support for emigration to West Africa. In 1937, Celia Jane Allen traveled to Jim Crow Mississippi to organize rural black workers around black nationalist causes. In the late 1940s, from her home in Kingston, Jamaica, Amy Jacques Garvey launched an extensive letter-writing campaign to defend the Greater Liberia Bill, which would relocate 13 million black Americans to West Africa.

Gordon, Allen, and Jacques Garvey—as well as Maymie De Mena, Ethel Collins, Amy Ashwood, and Ethel Waddell—are part of an overlooked and understudied group of black women who take center stage in Set the World on Fire, the first book to examine how black nationalist women engaged in national and global politics from the early twentieth century to the 1960s. Historians of the era generally portray the period between the Garvey movement of the 1920s and the Black Power movement of the 1960s as an era of declining black nationalist activism, but Keisha N. Blain reframes the Great Depression, World War II, and the early Cold War as significant eras of black nationalist—and particularly, black nationalist women's—ferment.

In Chicago, Harlem, and the Mississippi Delta, from Britain to Jamaica, these women built alliances with people of color around the globe, agitating for the rights and liberation of black people in the United States and across the African diaspora. As pragmatic activists, they employed multiple protest strategies and tactics, combined numerous religious and political ideologies, and forged unlikely alliances in their struggles for freedom. Drawing on a variety of previously untapped sources, including newspapers, government records, songs, and poetry, Set the World on Fire highlights the flexibility, adaptability, and experimentation of black women leaders who demanded equal recognition and participation in global civil society.

About the Author:

blain_pic.jpg

Keisha Blain is one of the leaders of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), a scholarly organization founded in 2014 to foster dialogue about researching, writing, and teaching black thought and culture. She is the senior editor of Black Perspectives, a popular academic blog published by AAIHS. She teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Earlier Event: March 2
Nathaniel Gadsden's Spoken Word Cafe
Later Event: March 6
Coffee, Cake and True Islam