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New Journal Brings Together Scholarship and Community Activism
Debra Humphreys, Editor, Diversity Digest and Director of Programs, AAC&U


African American Studies, Women's Studies, American Ethnic Studies. These field have had a profound Effect on scholarship and college curricula since the 1960s and 70s. They continue to be the cornerstones of efforts at curriculum transformation in the academy. From their beginnings, these interdisciplinary fields have sought to develop scholarship and curricula about groups of people in American society neglected in traditional college courses and majors. These fields have also, however, led the way in purposefully connecting scholarship to solving societal problems and to supporting activism within their communities.

As these fields have become more institutionalized in the academy, they have frequently been accused of leaving their more activist roots behind. Many of these programs, however, still remain campus arenas with the most connection to community activism and problem-solving one can find. A new journal sponsored by the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University demonstrates this continuing commitment to joining scholarship and activism, campus activities and community problem-solving.

Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society maps the intellectual contours of the contemporary African American experience focusing on contemporary ideological debates, politics, culture, and the recent history of African American people. While featuring some of the leading intellectuals in the field and provocative, cutting-edge scholarship, this journal also works hard to connect scholarship to contemporary challenges in the African American community. It brings together intellectuals from both traditional academe and the community to engage in critical dialogue about contemporary problems and challenges facing African Americans today.

In its inaugural issue, Souls features a series of articles on the theme, "Home to Harlem." Articles examine this community only a stone's throw away from Columbia, but which is often virtually ignored by Columbia University students and faculty members. With historical articles on the development of art and culture in Harlem, it also features articles on the impact of the crack epidemic in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the commercialization of African American culture, and reviews of recent books on Harlem, on women and the Blues, and on Stephen Speilberg's interpretation of the Amistad uprising.

Souls editor, Manning Marable, begins this issue with reflections on the "Million Youth March," held in Harlem in 1998, and various other responses to the "Million Man March" held in Washington, D.C. in 1995. He sets these activities and their particular politics in the context of contemporary Harlem--the status of its current population, the challenges faced by current residents. He reflects on the appeal of particular forms of activism and politics for various parts of the African American community, including youth. He also examines the response to the Million Youth March by New York elected officials and law enforcement agencies. He looks at this response in terms of its impact on efforts to build effective alliances across racial and class lines and multi-racial political movements to address pressing community problems in Harlem and elsewhere. Despite considerable obstacles, Marable insists in this essay that "the history of our racial imagination provides real hope that new democratic movements for fundamental change may still be created."

Bringing together historical and contemporary perspectives in the best tradition of African American studies, this journal attempts to bring scholarship to bear on community concerns and today's politics. The second issue of Souls focuses on "Race and Revolution in Cuba." Future issues and articles are planned on the impact of the President's Commission on Race, African Americans and organized labor, South Africa after apartheid, and African American women in American society. Engaged scholarship is alive and well in the American academy.


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