Our History Has Always Been Contraband: In Defense of Black Studies

On Tuesday, June 20, join Dr. Carmen Rojas, president and CEO of the foundation, for an illuminating conversation live and in person with Colin Kaepernick and MCF Freedom Scholars Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley, and Dr. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, the three coeditors of Our History Has Always Been Contraband. The conversation will cover not only how we got here but also the history those in power don’t want you to know, and how we can fight back to win a freer, more just society.

JUNE 20, 2023

This event is part of our MCF Book Club: Reading for a Liberated Future series. The MCF Book Club shares the ideas of leaders who encourage us to imagine how we can radically transform our democracy, economy, and society.

Our History Has Always Been Contraband: In Defense of Black Studies

Since its founding as a discipline, Black Studies has been under relentless attack by social and political forces seeking to discredit and neutralize it. Our History Has Always Been Contraband was born out of an urgent need to respond to the latest threat: efforts to remove content from an AP African American Studies course being piloted in high schools across the United States. Edited by Colin Kaepernick, Robin D. G. Kelley, and Keeanga-Yamaha Taylor, Our History Has Always Been Contraband brings together canonical texts and authors in Black Studies, including those excised from or not included in the AP curriculum.Featuring writings by: David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, C. L. R. James, James Baldwin, June Jordan, Angela Y. Davis, Robert Allen, Barbara Smith, Toni Cade Bambara, bell hooks, Barbara Christian, Patricia Hill Collins, Cathy J. Cohen, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Saidiya Hartman, Khalil Gibran Muhammad, and many others.

Featured Participants

Colin Kaepernick

Super Bowl quarterback Colin Kaepernick, holder of the all-time NFL record for most rushing yards in a game by a QB, took a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 2016 to bring attention to systemic oppressions—specifically police terrorism—against Black and Brown people. For his stance, he has been denied employment by the league to this day.

Since 2016, he has founded and helped to fund three organizations—Know Your Rights Camp, Kaepernick Media, and Kaepernick Publishing—that together advance the liberation of Black and Brown people through storytelling, systems change, and political education.

In 2022, he became a New York Times bestselling author for his acclaimed children’s picture book, I Color Myself Different, which explores transracial adoption through the lens of family and identity.

Robin D. G. Kelley

Robin D. G. Kelley is Distinguished Professor and the Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. History at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a widely published scholar, teacher, and Guggenheim Fellow whose work explores the history of social movements in the U.S., the African diaspora, and Africa—extending into research on Black intellectuals, music and visual culture, and surrealism and Marxism. 

Kelley’s most recent books include Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times and Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. He is also coeditor of numerous books, including The Russian Revolution: A View from the Third World and The Other Special Relationship: Race, Rights, and Riots in Britain and the United States. He is currently completing three book projects.

Keeanga-Yamhatta Taylor, PhD

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor is the Leon Forrest Professor of African American Studies at Northwestern University. She is a scholar of racism and inequality in U.S. housing policies. Taylor critiques public-private partnerships in public policymaking and the influence of market-based solutions in resolving trenchant social inequities. Taylor also studies radical politics and Black social movements in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is the author of three books, including the award-winning From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. Race for Profit was a semifinalist for the National Book Award and a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in History. She is a contributing writer for the New Yorker.