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PCT16: Loving While Black: Critical Reflections


The group will bring together Corridor scholars from diverse disciplines to discuss philosphical, cultural, and theological conceptions of love among people of African descent in the U.S., especially as they relate to ideas about race and humankind.

Inactive since: 2021

  • Syracuse University
  • University of Rochester
  • Colgate University

Collaborative Goals

The goal of the collaboration is to explore prospects for developing research projects, seminars, performances, or other types of interdisciplinary scholarly initiatives that explore discourses about love in configurations of Blackness and in contests over the humanity of Black people in the United States. The group aims to create and discuss a bibliography of philosophical, literary, theological, and visual materials that engage these issues and to begin reflecting on patterns and discontinuities in ideas about the capacity, ethics, expression, and dangers of love among people often compelled to contest a racial taxonomy that diminished their lives and threatened their relations with other human beings. Brainstorming sessions will hopefully enable the group to develop conceptual grounds for deeper and sustained conversations about how love has been constituted as a facet of Black American life, past and present. The project’s point of departure is a proposition Thomas Jefferson offered at the nation’s founding, supposing that Black people lacked the capacity for love. This alleged trait suggested that they might be constitutionally different and inherently inferior to White people. It thus helped to justify his proposal to remove people of African descent from the new republic in order to construct it as domain of Whiteness. Extending beyond questions of innate Black deficiency that shaped some visions of American identity, the group will discuss texts by Black philosophers, writers, theologians, and reformers to explore the varied ways that they engage love in mapping, defending, celebrating, and visualizing Blackness as a site of humanity and social membership. Anthony Appiah, James Baldwin, Charles Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, and Howard Thurman are among the diverse figures whose ideas the group will consider.

Group Organizers

Biko Gray

Assistant Professor of Religion

Conā Marshall

Assistant Professor of American Religions, University of Rochester

Danielle Taana Smith

Director of the Honors Program, Professor of African American Studies, Syracuse University

Joan Bryant

Associate Professor of African American Studies

Kyle Bass

Assistant Professor of Theater


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