Denmark and African American Culture

This two-day CTAS symposium seeks to explore multiple perspectives on the historical and cultural impact of African Americans’ encounters with and experiences in Denmark. The symposium takes place ten years after the “Denmark and the Black Atlantic” conference at the University of Copenhagen, which explored Denmark’s relationship to the black diaspora through history (especially slavery and colonialism), politics, and culture

2016 is also the hundred-year anniversary of Denmark signing over the Danish West Indies to the United States, ahead of the formal sale in 1917.


Wednesday 21 September

14:00 - welcome by Martyn Bone and Christa Holm Vogelius of CTAS

14:15 - 15:30 - Opening keynote by novelist Heidi Durrow, author of the New York Times bestselling, Bellwether Prize-winning novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
(Chair: Martyn Bone)

15:30 - 16:00 - Coffee break

16:00 - 17:30 - Panel session #1: Race, Racism and Activism in Denmark, the U.S, and beyond
Chair: TBC)

  • Asia Ali (Recent John Lewis fellow with Humanity in Action): “Diaphonic (African) American exceptionalism: Black and/or American?”
  • Lesley Ann Brown (author and activist, Copenhagen): …
  • Mary Consolata Namagambe (Black Lives Matter activist and student, University of Copenhagen)
  • Sade Johnson (Black Lives Matter activist and student, University of Copenhagen)

Thursday 22 September

09:00 - 10:30 - Panel session #2: Cultures of the Danish Black Atlantic: Religion, MusicLiterature
(Chair: Christa Holm Vogelius)

  • Merinda Simmons (University of Alabama): “Coming to Terms: Identifying Slave Religion in the Atlantic World”
  • Annemette Kirkegaard (University of Copenhagen): “On African American jazz musicians in Denmark: the case of Ray Pitts”
  • Martyn Bone (University of Copenhagen): “Race, Denmark and the U.S. in Cecil Brown’s The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger

10:30 - 11:00 - Coffee break

11:15 - 12:45 - Panel session #3: William H. Johnson and Denmark

  • Clara Juncker (University of Southern Denmark, Odense): “Black Kerteminde: The Visual Art of William H. Johnson”
  • Bart Pushaw (University of Maryland): “Before the Homecoming: William H. Johnson’s Fisher Folk”
  • Bent Sørensen (Aalborg University): “Danish resonances and repercussions in the life and work of William H. Johnson”

12:30 - 13:30 - Lunch break

13:30 - 14:30 - Panel session #4: The Diasporic Danish West Indies/U.S. Virgin Islands
(Chair: TBC)

  • Cherene Sherrard-Johnson (University of Wisconsin, Madison): “The Archipelagic Diaspora of Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning”
  • Amelia Flood (St. Louis University): “‘Mingled Blood’ to Claim a Nation: Recovering Casper Holstein’s Quest to Americanize the Virgin Islands”

14:30 - 16:00 - “Dexter Gordon and Ben Webster as ‘Cool Cats’”: screening of sixty-minute version of the 2005 DR documentary Cool Cats followed by a discussion, led by Maxine Gordon, author of the forthcoming book Dexter Calling: The Life and Music of Dexter Gordon (University of California Press), and Ethelene Whitmire

16:00 - 16:30 - Coffee break

16:30 -17:45 - Closing keynote by Ethelene Whitmire (University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fulbright Professor at the University of Copenhagen, fall 2016), author of Regina Andrews: Harlem Renaissance Librarian (University of Illinois Press, 2014) and a forthcoming book on African Americans and Denmark

All sessions will take place on KUA1 in room 27.0.09.

There is no registration (or registration fee). All are welcome to attend.

For further enquiries, contact co-organizers Dr. Martyn Bone and Dr. Christa Holm Vogelius.