Keeping the tradition vibrant!

Selling Out Woodson’s Journal, Part II

When ASALH met at its 101st Annual Meeting, no contract had been executed by the Executive Council because of internal objections and demands for more information.  As the ring leaders learned that they would have to face the membership and, more generally the opposition, they started acting in a very undemocratic manner to stifle free speech and the role of the membership to determine its destiny.  On Wednesday, the Executive Council held its meeting.  I planned to attend, and the sell outs knew that I had pledged to bring $55,000 to donate to keep the journal self-publishing.  Before I could get to the Marriott, I was informed that the police and security were in the hotel looking for me, and I was advised to speak to them before my arrival.   After convincing them that I was a threat to no one and that this was a heavy handed effort to stifle free speech and a legitimate opposition, they granted me access to the hotel.  I attended the meeting without incident.

The Executive Council Meeting saddened me.  Violating the constitution, which requires the members to vote for a parliamentarian who would serve for a year, the sell out crew had contracted a parliamentarian who served to shut down discussion.  The next day at the business meeting, the paid-for parliamentarian appeared and provided the expected services in the manner that served the interest of those wanting to sell out the journal.

With their constitutionally invalid parliamentarian doing their bidding, the leaders of ASALH stood before the 101st Business Session of ASALH on Thursday, October 6th.  The hue and cry about the journal and the police being deployed resulted in a meeting with approximately 250 members present.  There were academics, branch leaders, business people, government officials, and many former board members and presidents in the room.   Former President Shelia Flemming-Hunter asked for the agenda to be modified to bring the discussion of the publication committee closer to the top of the meeting.  Despite this we were all subjected to a protracted effort to filibuster so that the issue could not even come before the floor.  Evelyn of Harvard gave a long, tedious and intellectually embarrassing narrative of how Woodson tried to sell the Journal of Negro History to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  She offered it as evidence that Woodson was not opposed to having a white publisher and had once considered it.  Scholars looked dumbfounded as she equated trying to sell the journal to the NAACP, an interracial organization dedicated to pursuing racial equality, to taking on the University of Chicago as our publisher–an institution that has acted like a settler colony on in the heart of the black community on Chicago’s Southside.  Moreover, despite her standing as a first-rate historian, she did not provide context.  What brought on this attempt by Woodson to sell the journal?  Why did it end when the NAACP declined the offer?  Why did he not seek other buyers like Chicago.  Indeed, Woodson, as it turns out, had been paying for the journal out of his pocket–it was not self-sustaining and he could not get enough money from the board, apparently, to make it work without his subsidy.  In a conflict with his employer, Howard University, Woodson left his gainful employment and had to take care of himself and could not longer provide for the journal.  Through the good graces of his friend John Davis at West Virginia Institute, Woodson was hired as a dean and could afford to continue subsidizing the journal.  All this was left out of the history either because it was unknown by Professor Higginbotham or perhaps because it suggested that she and the board should dig in their pockets and support the journal.

Please read the documents here to understand how the Journal of Negro History, now the Journal of African American History, is the centerpiece of this great association founded by the Father of Black History, Carter G. Woodson.  The documents here will demonstrate that he founded this Association to give black folks an unfettered voice to the world.

Please join the effort to keep the JAAH self-published.   If we can convince the Executive Board to stay free by raising money to counter any revenue increases that may be suggested or promised, we will.  If we cannot reason with them, we will keep up the struggle to bring the JAAH back to ASALH over time.  All of this means making the board transparent and accountable.