Collage for Symposium 3

“Black Americans, Jewish Americans: Historical Intersections, Collisions, and Passings” will explore the complex ways in which two different minority communities, Black Americans and Jewish Americans, have nonetheless both struggled to belong in white Christian America. Despite progress made in civil rights since the mid-1960s, both anti-Black racism and antisemitism have shown no signs of abating in the 21st century’s third decade, exacerbated by a rise of white Christian populist nationalism.

Black American and Jewish American efforts to belong have sometimes resulted in shared activism and goals; at other times, they have resulted in conflict. What is common between them is a desire to fit in as Americans, to claim a rightful place as citizens and to feel accepted on their own terms. In the Jewish historical experience, this effort has often been called “assimilation;” in the Black historical experience, “passing.”

The symposium is comprised of Black, Jewish, and gentile scholars who approach the symposium’s themes from a variety of methodologies, with panels entitled “Historical Intersections of Black/Jewish Relations;” “African Americans and Jews Navigating a White Christian World,” “Literary Representations and Responses to European Antisemitism and White America;” “Political and Cultural Legacies of Civil Rights.” The symposium is structured as a series of accessible conversations among panelists, respondents, and the audience.

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ABOVE IMAGE: Top, left to right: 1. Passing by Nella Larsen (A Norton Critical Edition, W. W. Norton, 2007), edited by Carla Kaplan. 2. American Jewish Congress takes part in ‘Solidarity Day’ March in support of Poor People’s Campaign, Washington, D.C., 1968. American Jewish Congress records, undated, 1916–2006. Image courtesy of AJHS. 3. “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s” ad campaign with Malcolm X. “Another Levy’s Fan: Malcolm X asked to have his picture taken with a Levy’s Rye Bread ad.” Now! magazine, 1964. 4. Jews for Urban Justice Passover Seder. From left: Rev. Channing E. Phillips, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and Topper Carew, April 4, 1969, the night of the first Freedom Seder. Image courtesy of Arthur Waskow. 5. Striking Features: Psychoanalysis and Racial Passing Narratives (Mercer University Press, 2024) by Donavan L. Ramon. Bottom, left to right: 6. Rabbi Joachim Prinz (left) with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from the documentary film Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent (2015). 7. FBI Missing poster: Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner, 1964. Courtesy of Bettmann/CORBIS 8. The Human Stain by Philip Roth (Vintage International, 2001) 9. Author Lorraine Hansberry. Courtesy of Getty Images. 10. From left: Ralph Abernathy, Maurice Eisendrath, and Abraham Joshua Heschel during the march from Selma to Montgomery, 1965. From the documentary film Shared Legacies (2020).