Celebrating our elders: Pan-African studies looks back with elders, professor Jan Carew, Dr. Robert Douglas, Dr. Susan Herlin, Dean J. Blaine Hudson, and Dr. Yvonne Jones.

Author:Carew, Joy Gleason
 
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Introduction: Our Celebration

On September 5, 2013, the University of Louisville's Department of Pan-African Studies (PAS) celebrated its 40th anniversary in the Elaine Chao Auditorium of the Ekstrom Library. In embarking on this 40th year, we took the time to celebrate our "Elders" and the overfill crowd of students, faculty members, administrators, and community supporters joined us in honoring people who were key to the development and sustenance of the department. Virtually and in person, the audience heard from those who set the tone of the vibrant studies for which our Department has come to be known. Like the Sankofa bird turning its head to look back, we acknowledge our roots and draw strength and inspiration from them as we go forward.

Two of our "Elders," Professor Jan Carew at 92 and Dean J. Blaine Hudson at 63, had left us within the past academic year, but whose mark on the field and on the Department could not have been more significant. Thus, while we did not have the benefit of their physical presence, we prepared a virtual presentation to bring them into the auditorium, to remind us of their trailblazing and to help us celebrate this auspicious occasion. In addition to these trailblazers, three of our "Elders:" Dr. Robert Douglas, Dr. Susan Herlin, and Dr. Yvonne Jones, shared their experiences spanning the 40 years of the Department's existence. With the addition of follow-up interviews of the latter three and archival materials, we get a glimpse of the lives and times of not only these five important scholars and community members, but also of a department that ebbed and flowed like its sister Black Studies departments across the nation.

Professor Jan Carew

A virtual Jan Carew came up on screen, at the time in his 70s, in one of his lectures on the Black-Seminole alliances in Florida in the first half of the 19th century. Professor Carew admonished the audience, "white historiography divides us. [but] we need to focus on the unities in struggle that took place in history." Continuing the point, he observed, "One of the interesting things about white historiography, this Eurocentric historiography, is that it hones in on the things that separate us. They separate us from ourselves ... from our ancestors. from our history...from our families. They divide us into little fragments." Challenging this, he said, "my historiography hones in on just this point. Because the logic of the situation is that, if people who were oppressed-like the Native Americans were and like the African ancestors were-obviously they resisted that oppression! And, obviously, as intelligent human beings, it occurred to them that by uniting against a common foe, they would have greater strength in the struggle." But this was not just an historical capsule, as Professor Carew reminded us, "You're going to find this uniting of the oppressed threading its way through the entire history for five centuries" (Carew, 2014).

Professor Carew lived a life committed to art and social change that stretched from his early years in British Guiana, spanning across four continents, and interacting with many of the world's Black leaders and thinkers of the 20th century. Originally from British Guiana (now known as Guyana) in South America, Professor Carew came to the United States initially as a student just after World War II. He began Pre-Med studies at Howard University in Washington, DC, but frustrated with the racism and Jim Crow humiliations, he moved further north to study at Western Reserve University in Cleveland. But, again, confronted by Northern racist restrictions, he began to look for alternatives. Having made friends with the son of the Czech Counsel General, he welcomed the possibility of a scholarship to study at Charles University in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Like many struggling people in developing societies in the first half of the 20th century, he had a curiosity about the Socialist model of constructing new, more humane societies. After two years in Prague, he continued his Science studies at The Sorbonne University in Paris, France. All the while, though studying Science, he was drawn to painting and writing, and he ended up leaving Science behind for Art.

For the next twenty years, Professor Carew lived as a writer, art reviewer, playwright, broadcaster and journalist based in London, England, but also periodically doing stints in other countries. Part of that first generation of post-War West Indians moving into England, he was even asked to give lectures on race relations at the London University's Intramural program.

London of the 1950s and 1960s was a crossroads for the Anti-Colonial struggle and many future leaders of Caribbean and African nations also spent time there. A Pan-Africanist for life, Professor Carew actively supported Patrice Lumumba's Congolese National Movement in the late 1950s. He formed committees against the British actions during the Mau Mau rebellions in Kenya during the 1950s as well. He headed committees to free Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois from the internal exile the U.S. government had imposed upon them, and was there to greet them on their first journeys back to Europe once their passports were returned in 1958. Later, he was pleased to have Malcolm X join him when he launched the first major Black paper in London, Magnet, in early 1965.

In 1965, too, when Professor Carew was invited to Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana to be the Editor of the African Review and work in the Publicity Secretariat, he did not hesitate. However, his time was cut short a year into his stay when President Nkrumah was overthrown, and Nkrumah's supporters were either killed or jailed. Professor Carew was jailed, too, before being deported back to London in 1966. But, getting into and out of political hotspots was not unfamiliar for him. For example, four years earlier, while he was in Jamaica, the London Observer newspaper commissioned him to enter Cuba as the only Western reporter inside the country at the time of the 1962 Cuban Missiles Crisis.

In 1967, Professor Carew was in Canada when he became intrigued with the developments of the U.S. Black Power Movement and he secured a commission to write about this growing activism for a Canadian publication. During his extended tour of American urban centers, his stop in Newark, New Jersey led to an invitation to join the faculty of Princeton's newly-established Program of Afro-American Studies. In this late 1960s period, the administrations of various universities across the country were wrestling with how best to respond to students' demands for Black Studies and Black professors. Besides Princeton, Rutgers University down the road was also casting about for people who could come in and shape these new programs. Thus, Professor Carew taught at both Princeton and Rutgers through the universities' faculty sharing program. A member of that first generation of Black faculty in that tumultuous period, Professor Carew consulted with colleagues at a range of other universities across the country, as they tried to mold their own programs. In 1973, Princeton Board member and Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at Northwestern University, Dr. Hannah Gray, invited him to chair Northwestern's newly-established Department of African American Studies.

In all of these cases, Professor Carew saw his role as nurturing the ambitions of students who knew little about the academic demands they would face as they entered these formerly elusive institutions of higher learning. He also saw himself as a bridge between them and university administrators that knew little about these students and the communities from which they came. He developed tutoring and summer programs to help the students negotiate the gap between high schools that were not preparing them for higher education and the demands of university learning. He helped quell the violence that was spilling into academe from the community and refocus the students' energies to their success in these "foreign" environs. Additionally, he helped the student group leaders reshape their demands in such a way that their admonitions could be taken more seriously by reluctant administrators.

Professor Carew retired Emeritus Professor of Northwestern University in 1987 after 14 years at the university. Though there would be many more chapters in his peripatetic life, his last academic stop, at the age of 80, was the University of Louisville. He was invited by Dr. Robert Douglas of PAS and Dr. John Hale of the Liberal Studies Program to come out of retirement one more time. This time, it was to be a Liberal Studies Visiting Scholar-in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies in 2000. Louisville is where he remained for the rest of his life, always writing, giving occasional lectures, and mentoring generations of PAS majors (Carew, Interview, 2011).

It is to the testament of the vibrancy of PAS that Professor Carew chose to cap his long career at the University of Louisville. It was his trailblazing creativity, energy and bravado that helped shape the field of Black Studies in the U.S. in its early days. Besides Princeton, Rutgers, and Northwestern universities, over his more than 40 years in US academe, he helped a number of nascent programs and departments move from the political and emotive surge of the late 1960s and early 1970s into highly-regarded and well-established programs of study.

Dean J. Blaine Hudson

Dean J. Blaine Hudson, whose bass voice flooded the auditorium with his virtual presence, had a relationship with the University of Louisville that spanned over 40 years. From his student activism in the 1960s, through his long tenure as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dean Hudson has left an indelible mark not only on the development of a department, but also on the development of the largest college at the University of Louisville. This segment was taken from the broadcasts of the KET (Kentucky...

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