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Du Bois Fellows Give Talks

March 17, 2015
UMass Amherst Libraries

UMass Amherst Libraries Announce Du Bois Library Fellowship Talks

AMHERST, Mass. - The recipients of the 2014 Du Bois Library Fellowships, Brandon R. Byrd and Donald Geesling, will give talks on Thursday, April 9, 2015, at 4 p.m., in Room 2601, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Brandon R. Byrd’s talk, “The Problem of Haiti as it Stands Today,” examines the reaction of W.E.B. Du Bois to the occupation of Haiti by U.S. Marines from 1915-1934. It charts his progress from an initial attempt to accommodate U.S. interests in Haiti to an explicit critique of the unwanted intervention in Haitian affairs. In doing so, this talk aims to increase our understanding of Du Bois’s thought, particularly his evolving understanding of the connections among capitalism, imperialism, and white supremacy.

Dr. Byrd is assistant professor of history at Mississippi State University. His research interests lie in African American intellectual history and political culture. His current book project, An Experiment in Self-Government: Haiti in the African-American Political Imagination, 1863-1915, examines the ways in which black leaders imagined a link between Haitian independence and the prospects of black progress in the post-emancipation United States.

Donald Geesling’s talk, “Songs of Black Folk: The Musical Imagination of W.E.B. Du Bois, 1922-1942,” centers on Du Bois’s engagement with black music and musicians from the early 1920s to the early 1940s, highlighting the ways in which the art of song factored into his program for racial uplift and empowerment.

Du Bois was revered as a prophet of the color line, diviner of double consciousness, and an unyielding champion of diasporic self-determination. His ideas and writings have been parsed and debated for over a century; however, seldom discussed is the evolution of his intellectual thought regarding African American music. Drawing upon a number of archival holdings including unpublished essays, personal correspondence, memoirs, and Crisis columns, Geesling traces the contours of Du Bois’s intellectual thought regarding the commodification and potential socio-political utility of black song in the interwar period. An essay based on his research is slated for inclusion in a forthcoming collection, No Deed But Memory: Forging America’s Freedom in W.E.B. Du Bois’ Twilight Years, edited by Phillip Luke Sinitere.

Dr. Geesling is a cultural and social historian with a Ph.D. from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst and holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Tulsa. He is currently revising his dissertation manuscript on the famed African American poet, songwriter, and activist Gil Scott-Heron as well as conducting research for a project on the founding and flowering of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst. Dr. Geesling is co-leader and keyboardist for the New Africa House Ensemble, the house band for the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst.

The Libraries offer short-term residential fellowships to assist new scholars in conducting research in Special Collections and University Archives in the Du Bois Library. Full-time graduate students, faculty, or independent scholars (with a Ph.D.) are eligible to apply. Fellows receive a stipend of $2,500.

For more information, contact Rob Cox, head of Special Collections and University Archives, (, 413-545-6842) or visit:



Last Edited: 17 March 2015