Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Department ofClassics and Ancient
Mediterranean Studies

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Ancient Mediterranean

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Ancient Mediterranean
March 19, 2021
– March 21, 2021

Penn State’s Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies (CAMS) is excited to invite you to a conference titled “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Ancient Mediterranean” to be held on Zoom on March 19-21, 2021. The event is co-organized by Dr. Mathias Hanses (Penn State) and Dr. Jackie Murray (University of Kentucky) and co-sponsored by PSU’s Humanities Institute, the College of the Liberal Arts, the Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, the Department of Philosophy, the Jewish Studies Program, and the Chaiken Family Chair. The workshop reflects an on-going shift in the discipline of Classics, which has been focusing increasingly on the reception of ancient materials among Black, Indigenous, or Other People of Color. We are hoping to bring some of the new energies invested in the topic to Penn State, doing justice at the same time to the CAMS Department’s already interdisciplinary focus, uniting as it does Hellenists, Latinists, archaeologists, and ancient historians under the same roof with scholars of the Ancient Near East, Egypt, Jewish and Biblical Studies.

The goal, then, is to bring together a group of classicists and scholars of other Mediterranean cultures with researchers specializing in Du Bois's other areas of expertise (including sociology, African American literature, philosophy, rhetoric, and others) for approximately three-days’ worth of discussions of Du Bois’s engagement with the ancient Mediterranean. Papers will be pre-circulated in early March to facilitate discussions among the participants, ranging from full professors to graduate students, as well as anybody who would like to attend. For more information, please feel free to reach out to Mathias Hanses at


Mathias Hanses (Penn State, co-organizer)
Jackie Murray (University of Kentucky, co-organizer)
Irenae Aigbedion (Penn State)
Brandon Bourgeois (USC)
Virginia Closs (UMass Amherst)
Vanessa Davies (Bryn Mawr)
Harriet Fertik (University of New Hampshire)
Emily Grosholz (Penn State)
Eric Ashley Hairston (Wake Forest University)
Sean Hannan (McEwan)
Morgan Johnson (Colorado State)
R. A. Judy (Pittsburgh)
Michele Kennerly (Penn State)
Arti Mehta (Howard University)
Wilson Moses (Penn State)
Courtney Murray (Penn State)
Divya Nair (University of Pennsylvania)
Monica Ndounou (Dartmouth)
Dan-el Padilla Peralta (Princeton)
Patrice Rankine (University of Richmond)
Brian P. Sowers (Brooklyn College)
Caroline Stark (Howard University)
Stephen Wheeler (Penn State)
Erika R. Williams (Emerson)


All times are ET

Friday, March 19

12:30: Opening Remarks from Dean Clarence Lang, College of the Liberal Arts, Penn State

12:45: Opening Remarks from Mathias Hanses, Jackie Murray

1:30-4:30: Session 1: Du Bois on Race and Gender

  • Murray, Jackie: “Dreams of a Future Imperfect: The Quest of the Silver Fleece as an African American Foundation Epic”
  • Murray, Courtney: “The Duboisian Quest: Du Bois’s Feminist Approaches to Black Heroism”
  • Ndounou, Monica: “Reflections on ‘Drama for Neglected People’: A Case Study for Transforming the Discipline of the Classics through the Example of Dr. Anna Julia Cooper”
  • Fertik, Harriet: “‘Real Race Problems:’ A White Jewish Classicist Reads Du Bois”
  • Padilla Peralta, Dan-el: “Du Bois on the Native American: The Ancient Mediterranean as a Non-Resource"


Saturday, March 20

12:00: Opening remarks from representative of University of Kentucky

12:30-3:00: Session 2: Du Bois from the 1890s to the 1920s

  • Hairston, Eric Ashley: “Finding Your Roots: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Restorative Power of Shared Classical Heritage”
  • Wheeler, Stephen: “Du Bois in Cloudcuckooland: Toward Reconstruction of the First Transatlantic Reperformance of Aristophanes’s Birds
  • Aigbedion, Irenae: “The Ambivalence of Elegy in ‘Of the Passing of the First Born’”
  • Williams, Erika R.: “Strange Intimacies: Traces of Psyche in Du Bois’s ‘The Princess of the Hither Isles’”
  • Hanses, Mathias: “Black Cicero, White Caesar: W. E. B. Du Bois and Pro Marcello in 1924”
  • Davies, Vanessa: “‘I am no Egyptologist. That goes without saying.’ Du Bois and the Ancient Nile Valley”


3:30-6:00: Session 3: Du Bois and Philosophy

  • Moses, Wilson J.: “Alexander Crummell and W. E. B. Du Bois: From Plato to Stalin”
  • Judy, RA: “On the Question of Vir Bonus in W. E. B. Du Bois’s Proposed Science of Ethics”
  • Mehta, Arti: “W. E. B. Du Bois, African American Truths, and the Socratic Walk and Talk”
  • Sowers, Brian P.: “The Souls of Black Panthers: Socratic Metaphors for Racial Liberation in W. E. B. Du Bois and Huey Newton”
  • Grosholz, Emily: “The Classics in W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Quest of the Silver Fleece


Sunday, March 21

12:00: Opening remarks from Daniel Falk, Head, Department of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies, Penn State

12:15-2:00: Session 4: Du Bois on Myth, Legends, and Religion

  • Bourgeois, Brandon: “Mythopoesis and the Socratic Pedagogy of W. E. B. Du Bois.”
  • Rankine, Patrice: “Du Bois’ Broader ‘Antiquity:’ The Negro Church, its Origins, and its Impact Across the Modern World”
  • Closs, Virginia: “Seeking a Mythical Humanity: Rhetoric, Racecraft, and Urban Mythopoetics in Du Bois’s Philadelphia Negro


3:00-4:30: Session 5: Du Bois in the 1940s

  • Hannan, Sean: “Christian Messianism and African Universalism in the Classicism of W. E. B. Du Bois”
  • Kennerly, Michele and Johnson, Morgan: “The Place of Ancient Greece in Du Bois’s ‘The Workers’ (1948)”
  • Nair, Divya: “‘Asia in Africa’: The Ancient Mediterranean, India, and Africa in the Historiography of W. E. B. Du Bois”


5:00-5:30: Concluding Remarks from Jackie Murray and Mathias Hanses