Afrofuturism at the Zora Festival

Academic Conference

Thursday - Friday, January 30 - 31

Theme: What is Afrofuturism?

The transformative success of Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon calls our attention to the visionary scholarship and innovative practice at the heart of Zora Neale Hurston’s legacy. Hurston’s ability to see beyond the limitations imposed by white supremacy has long marked her as a leading figure who championed the centrality of black knowledge and action. The power of the black imagination and Hurston’s legacy of documenting it make her a foundational figure and calls our attention to the long legacy of the black imaginary that shapes the Afrofuturism we celebrate today. In the spirit of Hurston’s legacy and the vital conversations she continues to inspire, the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities has embarked on a five-year exploration (Festival 2020-2024) of meaning and praxis around Afrofuturism. From its inception, the term “Afrofuturism” followed a path championed by Hurston and other black scholars and artists that sought to call our attention to the vastness of black potentialities. Defined in 1994 by Mark Dery as “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of twentieth-century technoculture,” Afrofuturism as a field of contemporary study has evolved. Recognizing its deeper roots, Professor Alondra Nelson has called our attention to how Afrofuturism is a “canopy for thinking about black diasporic artistic production” and urged us to consider how Afrofuturists allow us to think about the “subject position of black people” in the world.

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), presenter of the annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA! Festival), the Michigan State University Consortium for Critical Diversity in a Digital Age Research (CEDAR), and the University of Central Florida Center for Humanities and Digital Research (CHDR) invites scholars to submit papers and mediated projects for the ZORA! Academic Conference, January 30-31, 2020, on the theme of “What is Afrofuturism?” We welcome papers exploring the dynamic dimensions of Afrofuturism from theoretical and/or historical perspectives and will be especially attentive to work that considers past, present, and emerging scholarly investigations of the black speculative practice. Participants are encouraged to engage the literature and discourse of their respective fields; while, at the same time, they will present their findings in public forums accessible to academics in other disciplines, as well as being intellectually stimulating for a general audience.

Presentations will be limited to 15-20 minutes. Abstracts are due October 14th.

Abstracts can be submitted online via Google Forms. URL:

Information on conference venue and schedule will be available upon completion of submission review and participant notification. Questions about the ZORA! Festival academic conference can be directed to

Contact Info:

Questions about the ZORA! Festival academic conference can be directed to

Contact Email:


Reframing History Bonus Episode

Reframing History started out as kind of digital documentation and evolved into an ongoing digital conversation. Season 1 was defined by the local history project. When I started this project, I did not know I would be working in Michigan the next academic year. I was envisioning a Digital History class that would have a podcast at it core and I wanted to test the Anchor app to make it. The process continues!

Building the Archive of the Black Social World in Central Florida

With a post on Oscar Mack not long ago, I’m reminded how much the intersection around digital humanities and black history for my work in Florida was generative. One project often built on another to create a fuller picture of the black experience. Reflecting back now, 2013 was a pivotal year. I conducted the Oscar Mack project in my African American History class during the spring semester. I came out of the project with a sense of things left undone and honestly… failure.

At the time, I did my end of the semester diagnostic and decided a few things. First, learning outcome were met and that was good. Students in my modern African-American history class were able to move from a single newspaper headline talking about a lynching, to telling a story about who, what, where, how and why. Second, from a scholarly perspective, a lot of questions were left unanswered. Where was his body? Who killed him? What other incidents of antiblack violence where lurking under the surface?

Plenty of gray and at some level my sense of failure was based on the reality that the resources (in every sense of the word) to do more were clear to me. I came to the end of the semester with a sense that I need to build some structures to document the black experience. I turned to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. Working with them, we were able to do some oral histories in the summer. While I think there was an intent to use these to learn about Mack, in organized the actual interview talking with people about region through their community lens was enough. What do we know about Hannibal Square on the ground? What is the relationship to Eatonville? Talking to black residents and getting their stories into the archive was meaningful (I hoped). Many things have changed since 2013, but the basic idea of using the process of building an archive as a benchmark was a solid choice. These archival documents can serve as the foundation for a more holistic narrative of the black experience in Central Florida. There was I came to realize a nuanced black social world I needed to document. Now you know where the “BLACK SOCIAL WORLD” name comes from. No straight lines, but you get places.