This interactive 2023-24 HBCU Scholars Fellowship presentation explores the historical connections between African American magic traditions—such as Hoodoo or Rootwork—and strategies of resistance to anti-black violence.

We will consider how enslaved African Americans created magical objects, techniques, and concepts that have survived into the era of #BlackLivesMatter. From the uses of graveyard dirt to the Book of Psalms as a book of spells, this presentation challenges audiences to connect the role of liberation throughout African American religious history, in general, to the more specific context of magic’s application during rebellions by enslaved people and contemporary protests against police brutality. Healing and harming through supernatural means, in this way, becomes a radical practice governed by the pursuit of freedom.

About the Fellow

Brenton Boyd is a scholar of Caribbean and African American literary, expressive, and religious cultures in the afterlife of slavery. He obtained a BA with highest honors at Hampton University and recently finished his doctoral studies in English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Emory University.

As a 2023-24 HBCU Scholar Fellow, Brenton completed his dissertation project, World-Wrecking: Afro-Eschatology and the Spirit of Performance. This work retheorizes the end of the world through the magico-religious cultures of the Greater Caribbean. Brenton will continue his research journey as an Assistant Professor of Black Studies at the University of Tampa, starting Fall 2024, and is currently turning his dissertation into a book manuscript.

Our work brings people together and honors our shared humanity.