Skip to main content


Call for Papers: Restaging the Harlem Renaissance

Announcements, Public Humanities

March 2, 2015

CALL FOR PAPERS – deadline extended!


New Views on the Performing Arts in Black Manhattan

Conference Title: “Restaging the Harlem Renaissance: New Views on the Performing Arts in Black Manhattan”
A two-day interdisciplinary symposium
Columbia University, New York City

Conference Date: Friday, June 26-Saturday, June 27, 2015

Abstract Submission Deadline: Monday, March 23, 2015

Conference Description:
In June 2015, Morningside Opera, Harlem Opera Theater, and The Harlem Chamber Players will collaborate on a concert performance of the 1914 opera, Voodoo, by composer-librettist H. Lawrence Freeman. Dubbed “the colored Wagner” by a contemporary journalist, Freeman’s work – blending western classical music with American and African-American subjects and musical styles – offers a fresh perspective on the performing arts of the Harlem Renaissance.

On the occasion of this rare performance of a work by a major, if nearly forgotten, figure, we are convening a two-day interdisciplinary conference on African-American performing arts to accompany an array of events related to the revival, including a talkback with performers, and an exhibit of Freeman’s papers in Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This conference seeks to contextualize Freeman’s 1914 opera, to address several trends in recent scholarship on African-American culture of the period, and to reflect on the new directions of Black performance studies.

Topics: The symposium planning committee invites proposals related to, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Religion and spirituality in performing art of the period o African-American opera and ideas of voice
  • Classical music and the roots of jazz
  • Performances of racial uplift respectability
  • Performances of protest or propaganda
  • The queerness of African-American classical music
  • Images of performers in the period
  • The minstrel tradition and classical music
  • Transatlantic legacies of fascist ideology and/or nationalism o African-American aesthetics after Romanticism
  • Representing the religions of the Caribbean Diaspora
  • “Instruments of force"/organology/sound studies of the period o Patronage of Harlem Renaissance arts

Guidelines for Submissions: We invite submissions of scholarly papers and work-in- progress research presentations from any discipline for 20-25 minute conference presentations on a wide variety of topics. Please submit an abstract of 250-350 words to conference organizer Annie Holt ([email protected]) by March 23, 2015. Include the title of the presentation, your full contact details, and your institutional or organizational affiliation. Panel submissions are also welcome.

Conference co-sponsors: Columbia University’s Department of Music, Ph.D Program in Theatre, Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity, the Heyman Center for the Humanities, the Institute for Research in African-American Studies and the IRAAS Alumni Council, New York Council for the Humanities, and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Review Process: Submissions will be reviewed by the Conference Planning Committee, made up of one representative from each co-sponsoring department. Participants will be notified of acceptance by April 6, 2015.
Inquiries should be sent to conference organizer Annie Holt at [email protected].