How Can the History of African American Girlhood inform Policy Research and Vice Versa?

June 2020

Over the past decade, black girls have become a focus of inquiry in two widely divergent fields: social scientific policy research and historical studies. Initiatives such as the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research, of which Harvard University is a part, and the Global History of Black Girlhood Collective, of which we are co-founders, have generated conferences, publications, media coverage, and significant policy recommendations centered on black girls. A quick read of recent research might suggest that interdisciplinary collaborations in "black girl studies" are thriving as social scientists cite historians and those doing archival work aim to address contemporary concerns. Dig beneath the surface, however, and scholars are talking past each other and missing the import of each other's work. A gulf has opened between those employing social scientific methods and those working in archives. This gap threatens to undermine findings on both sides, eroding the foundation of policy initiatives supposedly grounded in history and isolating historical research from contemporary debates. This exploratory seminar will generate new strategies for collaboration by bringing together people who never meet in one place—policy experts, historical researchers, and archivists—in order to ask questions that have yet to be posed: why do current understandings of "interdisciplinary" research in black girl studies divide social scientists from archival researchers? How might those divides be bridged in order to generate more effective research agendas on both sides? What specific strategies should be pursued in the next five years?