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A Conversation with Dr. Jeffrey C. Stewart

I had been somewhat defined a little bit in 2003 by the fact that I hadn’t completed the biography [The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke] that I had been working on for many years. I lost touch with it, and being outside the country, being in Italy that semester was really important for me to get back to who I was, and so I thank the Fulbright Program. That was just an incredible experience for me.”

– Dr. Jeffrey C. Stewart

Overview

On February 25, 2021, the Fulbright Program hosted a virtual event celebrating the accomplishments of Fulbright alumnus and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Dr. Jeffrey C. Stewart, and exploring the themes of his acclaimed biography, The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke. Dr. Stewart presented a brief overview of Locke’s biography before engaging in conversation with Fulbright alumna Dr. Joanne Braxton, a prominent scholar of African American Literature and Culture.

The event began with a short lecture by Dr. Stewart introducing the cultural and historical foundations of Alain Locke’s life through photographs, book excerpts, and fragments of Locke’s personal correspondence. Dr. Stewart also explained the ways in which Locke’s race and sexuality played key roles in his academic experiences and philosophies. Following the presentation, Dr. Stewart and Dr. Joanne Braxton discussed Locke’s time as a Rhodes Scholar, his philosophy of cosmopolitanism, and the idea of “the new negro.”

The discussion drew a clear connection between Locke’s experiences and ideas to the present, with implications for art, culture, religion, and the current realities of international exchange experiences for students and scholars of color.

Meet the Panelists

Dr. Jeffrey C. Stewart, (2003 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Italy) – Jeffrey C. Stewart, PhD, is the author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, by Oxford University Press, 2018. It is one of the few books of history that has won the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, along with five other national awards in history, biography, and gay nonfiction. Stewart attended graduate school at Yale University, where he received a M.A., M. Phil. and Ph.D. in American Studies. He now serves as Professor of Black Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, after numerous fellowships, lectureships, and professorships at Harvard University, Yale University, UCLA, Tufts University, Howard University, George Mason University, and the University of Rome III, where he was Fulbright Lecturer in American Studies in 2003.

Dr. Joanne Braxton, (2001 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Germany) – Joanne Braxton, PhD, is Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Professor of the Humanities Emerita at William & Mary (W&M) and a distinguished scholar of African American Literature and Culture. She is a former Fulbright Professor (Germany, Italy, France and Spain, 2001) and the proud mother of a Fulbright daughter, Mycah (Japan, 2018). More recently, Dr. Braxton has served as David B. Larson Fellow in Spirituality and Health at the Library of Congress John W. Kluge Center and is currently director of “Tree of Life: Black Faith Matters in a Time of Dual Pandemics,” a project sponsored by the Center for African-American Religion, Sexual Politics, and Social Justice at Columbia University and funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. In 2021, Dr. Braxton will deliver the 27th Annual Shallenberger Lecture “On the Outrage of Black Mothers: Healing the Past in the Present” at the invitation of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Ethics Committee and the Berman Institute of Bioethics.