Circle of Thought Series Presents Janira Teague

Circle of Thought Brown Bag Lunch Series Presents Janira Teague

On Thursday, May 23rd, the Bunche Center Circle of Thought Brown Bag Lunch Series presents Janira Teague, speaking on “I, too, Am America: Migrations, Identity and Citizenship in Black New York City, 1890s to 1930s.  The event will be held in the Bunche Library and Media Center, Haines Hall 135, from noon to 1:00pm. 

Ms. Teague is a UCLA Doctoral Candidate in history whose research looks at the impact of Afro-Caribbean migration into Harlem during the early 20th century.  Last year, Ms. Teague was awarded a research grant for her project from the UCLA Institute of American Cultures.  Her project explores citizenship and the political and economic identity of people of African descent who migrated and immigrated to New York City from the 1890s to 1930s and examines their intellectual ideas/ideals of identity, citizenship, and nationality.

Center Talk recently had the opportunity to speak briefly with Ms. Teague and ask about her research.

Ed.  You received a grant from the UCLA Institute of American Cultures for the 2012-2013 academic year.  What did that grant allow you to do?

JT.  The grant allowed me to visit the Library of Congress and the National Archives in Washington to research records of black immigrants.  I also visited the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City as well as other archives in New York and Washington, D.C. with sources regarding Black migrants and immigrants.  There are a number of challenges involved with collecting primary sources and in funding visits to the archives that house these sources.  Therefore, the IAC grant was greatly appreciated and necessary to complete my research on this important topic.

Ed.  What is the significance of black life during this period in New York?

JT.  Black immigrants definitely wanted to improve their economic and social status.  However, I’m also interested in whether or not a desired change in citizenship status influenced their movements.  Likewise, my research engages the 14th Amendment and how it established citizenship for native- born people of African descent in the United States.

Ed.  While many historians look at the post 1965 black immigrants and migrants in NYC, you chose to look at the earlier wave.  Why?

JT.  This earlier wave came right after emancipation.  The former slaves were dealing with transition, while the black immigrants were dealing with naturalization. Comparing and contrasting the immigrants vs. the migrants, I can explore the complexities of becoming American and really look at citizenship vs. identity.   This earlier wave provides a prime example of the fluidity of citizenship and nationality and how that contributes to the construction of race.

Ed.  What is the goal of your research?

JT.  I build upon important scholarship on the Great Migration, Black immigrants and Black immigration during the early 20th century, with an emphasis on the importance of Black immigration during this time period.  I will offer a deeper understanding of theses simultaneous movements as well as the citizenship status, nuanced and shifting identity, and intellectual ideals of its participants.


 Ms. Teague’s talk is free and open to the public.  All-day parking ($11) and short-term parking (payable at pay stations) are available in Lots 2, 3 or 4 (enter the campus at Hilgard and Westholme avenues).  If you would like to support the Bunche Center, its students and its programs, please visit  As of April 22, 2013, UCLA is smoke-free and tobacco-free.  The use of cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and all other tobacco products, as well as electronic cigarettes, will be prohibited on UCLA’s campus and at sites owned or fully leased by the university.  For more information, please visit: