Lecturer addresses Black Nationalism

By Emliy Marmion

The weather didn’t keep too many away from last night’s annual E.P. Thompson Memorial… The weather didn’t keep too many away from last night’s annual E.P. Thompson Memorial Lecture.

Steven Hahn, a scholar with a focus on the history of 19th-century America and black history, gave a lecture titled “Black Nationalism, Social Democracy, and the American Civil Rights Movement” in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The goal of the lecture was to dissolve any assumptions people have about the Civil Rights Movement and its direct relation to black history, Hahn said in an e-mail.

According to Hahn, the Civil Rights Movement roughly began with the Brown v. Topeka, Kan. Board of Education Supreme Court case in 1954, reached victorious moments in the mid 1960s and unraveled during the Vietnam War.

Marcus Rediker, Pitt distinguished professor of atlantic history, said Pitt is lucky to have Hahn.

“Hahn is a major player in U.S. history,” Rediker said in an e-mail.

Hahn expressed his concern for important contributions to the black history that were not part of the Civil Rights Movement that are downplayed because they were not as evident in the media.

The Civil Rights Movement was a time of social democratic mobilization, Hahn said.

“Other Africans looked to African-Americans for support,” Hahn said.

However, not all blacks wanted change. Doubts about integration surfaced in the manifestation of black nationalists, Hahn said.

This group was known as “the counter narrative to the Civil Rights Movement,” Hahn said.

Unlike the abundance of black political activism in the 1960s and 1970s, Hahn said, blacks today are lacking an active voice.

“For a time in 2008, it looked as though something might be happening, but what ‘movement’ there was unraveled pretty quickly in part because Obama’s advisers wanted that to happen and in part because it was difficult to challenge Obama from the left when he was being challenged so viciously from the right,” Hahn said in an e-mail.

In 2004, Hahn’s book, “A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration,” received the Pulitzer Prize for history, the Bancroft Prize in American History and the Merle Curti Prize in Social History of the Organization of American Historians.

Hahn also gave a series of lectures at Harvard University which were published as “The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom.”

“If he had medals for all of his prizes, he’d find it hard to stand up,” Rediker said.

Sophomore Mark Scrimenti found Hahn to be well-prepared and intelligent.

“Hahn offered a fresh outlook on a period that is usually generalized,” Scrimenti said.