Reckoning with the Black Radical Tradition: A Conference in Honor of Jack O'Dell

Saturday, January 13, 2024

University of Washington, Seattle

8:00 AM - 9:00 PM

Husky Union Building (HUB)


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About the Conference

Jack O’Dell (1923-2019) was a visionary intellectual and an astute organizer who helped shape the course of the Black freedom movement in the second half of the twentieth century. Though driven out of the spotlight by anticommunism, O’Dell worked creatively and tirelessly to advance the Black Radical Tradition through labor activism, piercing analysis, and political mobilization. He passed away on October 31, 2019, shortly before the pandemic. On January 13, 2024, activists, scholars, and others will convene at the University of Washington in Seattle to present on and discuss the Black Radical Tradition in honor of Jack O’Dell’s life and work.

    Particularly at a moment when campaigns against Critical Race Theory and “wokeism” are proliferating across the United States, this major conference on Black radicalism will serve as a rallying cry to think critically and to move forward collectively toward racial justice. A public commemoration of Jack O’Dell—who spearheaded voter registration drives, edited Freedomways (for many, a guiding light of the Black freedom movement), and strove always to place politics globally and historically—will be sure to energize and mobilize.

    The one-day conference, consciously scheduled for the Saturday before MLK Day to attract a wide range of participants, will include three plenaries and a series of panels and roundtables.

    To learn more about Jack O'Dell, please see "Capitalism, Colonialism, and the Long Arc of Black Struggle: Reading Jack O’Dell" by Nikhil Pal Singh. 


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    Conference Program and Schedule

    Download the conference program as a PDF here. 

    All sessions will be held in the Husky Union Building (HUB) on the University of Washington Seattle campus. Rooms to be announced.

    8:00 - 8:45 AM: Breakfast


    8:45 - 9:00 AM: Welcome
    9:00 - 10:00 AM: Opening Plenary (REGISTRATION REQUIRED)

    Why the Black Radical Tradition Matters Now

    Location: Lyceum (Room 160), Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Roderick Ferguson (Yale University)

    • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (Princeton University)

    Chair: La TaSha Levy (University of Washington)
    Discussant: Chandan Reddy (University of Washington)

    10:15 - 11:45 AM: Panels

    Jack O’Dell, Radical Thinker and Innovative Strategist

    Location: Room 145, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Jack O’Dell and the Southern Freedom Movement, Michael Honey (University of Washington, Tacoma)
    • A Black Working-Class Vantage on the World System: Interpreting Ewart Guinier, Jack O’Dell, James Boggs and Bill Fletcher Jr., Tejasvi Nagaraja (Cornell University)
    • We Fight for What We Fought For: Jack O’Dell and the American Veterans Committee, Matthew Nichter (Rollins College)

    Chair: Christopher Tounsel (University of Washington)
    Discussant: Habiba Ibrahim (University of Washington)


    Reckoning with Land and Gender in the Black Diaspora

    Location: Room 250, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: Black Women’s Radical Testimony, Crystal Feimster (Yale University)
    • Women’s Conceptualizations of Transformative and Repairable Intimate Relationships in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Haiti, Bianca Dang (University of Washington)
    • Consent, Sexualized Violence, and the Emancipation of the Body, Frances O’Shaughnessy (University of Washington)
    • Re-membering Jack O’Dell’s Legacy to Re-imagine Today’s Freedom Dreams, Bianca Beauchemin (York University)

    Chair: Ileana Rodríguez-Silva (University of Washington)
    Discussant: Stephanie Smallwood (University of Washington)

    Anticolonialism and Antifascism

    Location: Room 334, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • West Coast Solidarity: Black Antifascism and the Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939, Javier Muñoz (UCLA)
    • Claudia Jones and Liberation through Peace, Denise Lynn (University of Southern Indiana)
    • Marching Blacks: Police Brutality and the Struggle Against "Native Fascism," Luther Adams-Free Man of Color (University of Washington, Tacoma)

    Chair: Oliver Rollins (University of Washington)
    Discussant: Sonnet Retman (University of Washington)


    Noon - 12:45 PM: Lunch (REGISTRATION REQUIRED)

    Screening of Rami Katz’s The Issue of Mr. O’Dell (2018)

    Location: Lyceum (Room 160), Husky Union Building (HUB)

    12:45 - 2:00 PM: Lunch Plenary  (REGISTRATION REQUIRED)

    The Fierce Urgency of Now: A 20-Year Retrospective

    Location: Lyceum (Room 160), Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Charlie Demers, comedian and author
    • Karen Ferguson (Simon Fraser University)
    • John J. Munro, (University of Birmingham, UK)
    • Cara Ng, researcher and activist
    • Ian Rocksborough-Smith (University of the Fraser Valley)


    2:15 - 3:30 PM: Panels

    Revisiting the Radical 1960s

    Location: Room 145, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Fighting for “Union Power, Soul Power”: Jack O’Dell’s “Special Variety of Colonialism” and the 1969 Hospital Workers’ Rebellion Against Empire, Daniel Cumming (Johns Hopkins University)
    • James “Jimmy” Garrett, Community Organizing, and the Black Student Union, Marc Robinson (California State University, San Bernardino)

    Chair: Bill Lyne (Western Washington University)
    Discussant: M. Aziz (University of Washington)


    Roundtable on Framing Black Radicalism

    Location: Room 250, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Moderator: Dan Berger (University of Washington, Bothell)
    • Arun Kundnani, writer and independent scholar 
    • Na'Quel Walker, Collective Justice NW
    • Maurice BP-Weeks, Labor and Abolition Fellow, Interrupting Criminalization


    3:30 - 5:15 PM: Roundtables

    Roundtable on Jack O’Dell’s Vision of Transforming Political Power: The Washington State Rainbow Coalition

    Location: Room 145, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Bob Barnes
    • Cindy Domingo, Legacy of Equality Leadership & Organizing (LELO)
    • Rosalinda Guillen, Community to Community Development
    • Rick Harwood (Seattle University)
    • Alec Stephens
    • Helena Stephens 


    Black and Red on the Waterfront

    Location: Room 250, Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Moderator: Zack Pattin, ILWU Local 23
    • Peter Cole (Western Illinois University)
    • Clarence Thomas, ILWU Local 10, retired
    • Gabriel Prawl, President, A. Philip. Randolph Institute


    5:15 - 7:00 PM: Break

    7:00 - 9:00 PM: Dinner and Closing Plenary (REGISTRATION REQUIRED)

    Remembering Jack O’Dell, Advancing the Black Radical Tradition

    Location: Lyceum (Room 160), Husky Union Building (HUB)

    • Gene Bruskin, trade unionist, activist, and playwright
    • Robin D. G. Kelley (UCLA)
    • Sharon Maeda, activist, feminist, and journalist
    • Nikhil Pal Singh (New York University)

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    Registration Information

    Reckoning with the Black Radical Tradition is free and open to the public. However, due to space limitations, registration is required for the morning, afternoon and evening plenary sessions. Registration is not required for other sessions.

    Registration for the three plenaries includes continental breakfast, a boxed lunch, and banquet dinner. A donation is suggested, but not required. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

    Register for the plenary sessions here.


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    Conference Sponsors

    This conference is organized by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, and the Simpson Center for the Humanities, with support from the Department of History, the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity, the University Honors Program, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Seattle Chapter.


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    Jack O'Dell and the Black Radical Tradition Reading Group

    In anticipation of the conference, the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies is hosting a reading group focused on the writings of Jack O'Dell. Reading group sessions will be held monthly from 6:30pm-8:00pm on the following dates:

    • Tuesday, October 17, 2023
    • Tuesday, November 14, 2023
    • Tuesday, December 19, 2023

    Reading group meetings will be held in-person at locations in South Central Seattle. Exact locations will be announced. Light meals will be provided.

    The first twenty people to register for the reading group will receive a free physical copy of the book, Climbin’ Jacob’s Ladder: The Black Freedom Movement Writings of Jack O’Dell. PDF files of readings will also be provided. 

    Register for the plenary sessions here.


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    Jack O'Dell & Jane Power Endowed Student Support Fund

    For nearly fifty years, Jack O'Dell and his partner Jane Power worked together across a range of social movements fighting for peace and justice. After Jack's passing in 2019, Jane initiated the Jack O'Dell & Jane Power Endowed Student Support Fund to support student involvement in social justice movements through the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington.

    Sadly, Jane passed away in September 2023 as planning for the Reckoning with the Black Radical Tradition conference was underway. In memory of Jack and Jane, we invite conference participants to make a donation to this fund. 

    Make a donation to the Jack O'Dell and Jane Power Student Support Fund here.

    To make a contribution via one of the UW’s additional gift vehicles (securities, wire transfer, planned gift) please contact Tiffany Calverley at (206) 543-0529 or by email


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    Contact Us

    If you have any questions related to travel or lodging, please contact Kim McKaig at the Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest at

    If you have any other questions related to the conference or program, please contact the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies at


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