Before March, Barbara D. Savage, the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought in the Department of Africana Studies at Penn, had been traveling around the globe to conduct research for her latest project. In a Q&A, Savage discusses takeaways from teaching at Oxford, past and current social reform movements, researching her latest book, and where she finds bright spots amidst the pandemic.
After teaching at Oxford for a year, the University introduced an undergraduate prize in her honor. The most surprising thing she learned from teaching there, she says, was “how interested students were in African American history in particular and black history worldwide. Certainly, the history of the civil rights movement captures student’s imaginations, as it does students here, and then reaches back to slavery and abolition, war and reconstruction, and the long 20th century struggle to end segregation and racial inequality.
“The courageous moral leadership of young people is the common connector [among past and present social movements], something made visible in the images from the marches and protests this summer. The diversity of the protesters and the geographic reach of the protests is the best evidence of the shared outrage that led people into the streets. Past movements have also attracted global support, but not to the extent that we saw and are still seeing.”
About her upcoming book on Merze Tate, Savage says, “I came to Professor Tate in a project on black women intellectuals, where she stood out as one of the few black women scholars of her generation. Trained at Oxford in the 1930s and Harvard in the 1940s, she spent her career at Howard from 1942 to 1977 and published 5 books in diplomatic history. I became fascinated both by “how” she came to spend her life as she did, and perhaps, more difficult to answer, “why.”
Read more at Africana Studies.