Indiana University East will host guest lecturer Sakina Hughes, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana, from 6-8 p.m., on Wednesday, November 16, in the Whitewater Hall Community Room.
The lecture is free and open to the community.
Hughes will present, “‘The Community Became an Almost Civilized and Christian One’: John Stewart’s Mission to the Wyandots and Religious Colonialism as African American Racial Uplift.” This talk opens a conversation on the multifaceted relationships between African Americans and Native Americans, and religion and U.S. expansion in the nineteenth-century American Midwest.
The discussion centers on the summer of 1816 and an African American man named John Stewart who had a series of visions that directed him to “Christianize and civilize the wilderness” of the Old Northwest. Armed with his bible and the blessing of the U.S. government Indian agent, Stewart began his mission in a multiracial community where Wyandot, Delaware and African American people lived. Stewart’s ministry became the first permanent Methodist mission in the U.S. Within a generation, the U.S. government forced the Wyandot and Delaware people out of the region. The African American community, many of whom had escaped slavery, also left due to white encroachment and the threat of violence.
Hughes specializes in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. She completed her doctoral degree at Michigan State University in 2012. Her dissertation, Under One Big Tent: Native Americans, African Americans and the Circus World of Nineteenth-Century America, explores the lives of black and Indian traveling performers from Reconstruction to World War I. It considers mobility, racial uplift, and the mutability of race while exploring relationships people of color have with U.S. imperialism. She argues that diversity was crucial in forming the Midwest and circuses enabled African and Native Americans to sustain robust communities and build international careers.
Hughes was the 2012-2013 Du Bois-Mandela-Rodney Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. Her research has also been supported by a Newberry Library D’Arcy McNickle Center Fellowship, CIC-American Indian Studies Consortium Fellowships, and a USI Junior Faculty Summer Research Award. She has presented her work at the American Historical Association, the American Society of Ethnohistory, the Midwest Popular Culture Association, and the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.
Hughes’ chapter on the lives of African and Native American artists was published in Beyond Two Worlds: Critical Conversations of Language and Power in Native North America. Her article, “‘The Community Became an Almost Civilized and Christian One’: John Stewart’s Mission to the Wyandots and Religious Colonialism as African American Racial Uplift,” in Native American and Indigenous Studies explores religious colonialism and racial uplift through the life of John Stewart, an African American missionary to a Wyandot community in the early nineteenth century.