Kendra Field | December 2015

No Such Thing as Stand Still: Migration and Geopolitics in African-American History

This article explores the intricacies of Chief Sam’s little-known back-to-Africa movement and recover the history of the migrants who created it. One hundred years ago, Sam and his followers set sail on the SS Liberia for the Gold Coast. Sam’s movement began in Oklahoma, an American borderland at the turn of the twentieth century, and ended on the western coast of Africa during World War I. Its roots, however, stretched across the American South and back through the transatlantic slave trade. This article uses the story of one family of freed-people to argue that this back-to-Africa movement was not only a prelude to Garveyism and the Great Migration but also a capstone to what Carter G. Woodson once called “a century of negro migration” within and beyond North America. More specifically, my analysis documents an indelible link between the western and Liberia migratory movements and illuminates their common ground. This article re-imagines the post-emancipation period as a series of unbound migrations, deepens the roots of the Great Migration, and highlights the centrality of migration and geopolitics in African American history. Full article


Kendra Field  |  June 2014

The Violence of Family Formation: Enslaved Families and Reproductive Labor in the Marketplace



Kendra Field and Daniel Lynch | Oct 2016

Master of Ceremonies: The World of Peter Biggs in Civil War-Era Los Angeles

This article reconstructs the life and times of Peter Biggs, a free African American man in 1850s and 1860s Los Angeles, revealing the social and economic niche that he fashioned between the U.S.-Mexican War and the Civil War. Biggs’s little-known biography illuminates a forgotten moment in the temporal and spatial history of American racial construction. Full article


Kendra Field and Ebony Coletu | July 2014

The Chief Sam Movement, A Century Later: Public Histories, Private Stories, and the African Diaspora

On the centennial of the 1914 Chief Sam Back-to-Africa Movement, this essay engages previously unexamined source material in Oklahoma and West Africa—especially the oral testimony and ephemera of descendants and witnesses in both places. Piecing together historical documents, testimony, and images from both sides of the Atlantic, Kendra Field and Ebony Coletu point towards a more complex narrative of this little-known and less-understood emigration movement. Inspired by an uncanny revelation of their overlapping family histories, this is the story of their shared research endeavors and personal journeys to revitalize inquiry into this movement that served as a model for what would soon become the largest black organization—Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association—in world history. Full article