THE SCIENCE & ENGINEERING OF RACE: Living Through the Archives 

Huddleston Hall, University of New Hampshire
October 20 – 21st, 2017


Modern medical and social sciences have made some extraordinary advances through the exploitation of Black bodies while simultaneously allowing myths of racial inferiority to continue as justification for centuries of enslavement and political disenfranchisement.

From the Tuskegee syphilis experiment to the unethical use of Henrietta Lacks’ cells to engineer a polio vaccine, to the ongoing forced sterilization of Black women in clinics and prisons, the story of American scientific advancement carries with it a shadow story of ethical corruption, pain, and silencing. The insidious parallel fictions of the innate athleticism, super strength and natural rhythm of African people are rooted in pseudo-scientific research and writings.

In unpacking this theme, conference presenters will examine the historical and current impact of “race science” and pseudoscientific movements to present “race as destiny” on fields of inquiry ranging on areas of modern medicine and health care, reproductive rights, public policy, criminal law, civil rights, athletics, educational access, and effects on the arts and entertainment industries.

Panelists and speakers will demonstrate ways that African-American intellectuals, activists, artists, and social scientists have grappled with the complexities of “race science” and its contemporary iterations in popular culture. Additionally, through specific examples, such as the reclaiming of Portsmouth’s colonial-era African Burying Ground, presenters will examine how the unprecedented popularity of genetic testing is affecting race relations in America today.

Through discussion of these medical and forensic abuses, the conference will uncover past and present applications of scientific fictions that have codified racial hierarchies and sustained pervasive beliefs with public policies that continue to shape all areas of American life.

Conference Panels :

  • A Conversation with Katherine Sanders, granddaughter of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
  • Hidden Figures: Reintroducing Regional Black Scientists & Inventors/ Kirby Randolph, Reginald Pitts & L’Merchie Frazier
  • In the Name of Science: A Film Discussion/ Delia Konzette, Lisa Simmons &
  • Awards Dinner Keynote Address with
  • Tracing Genetic Ancestry & Reclaiing Black Spaces/ Jada Benn Torress, Christopher Petrella & Kathleen Wheeler
  • Inventing Race: Science, Medicine & Big Business/  Lundi Braun, Anthony Ryan Hatch &
  • Lunch Time Keynote Address with Yvonne Goldsberry
  • Skeletons in Our Closet: Anthropology’s Role in Constructing and Deconstructing the Science of Race/ Meghan Howey, Rachel Watkins, Zaneta Thayer & Janet McIntosh
  • The Way Forward/ Joseph Onosko, Robert Munroe, Yvonne Goldsberry, Kyra Wells & Peter Frank

The Black New England Conference, now in its 11th year, is a regularly occurring 2-day gathering to share insights and scholarly work on Black experiences, past and present, in New England. Recent keynote speakers at the conferences have included comedian and activist Dick Gregory, columnist Derrick Jackson, actor and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, director John W. Franklin, playwright Lydia Diamond, author Lorene Carey, and Professors James Campbell and James O. Horton, with topical presentations by professional and independent scholars, community researchers, writers, artists, and activists. The Conference is both an academic conference and a celebration of Black life and history.

The 2017 Black New England Conference is Sponsored by:

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