From Black Power to Hip-Hop

Article excerpt

Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar

Title: Associate Professor of History and Director, Institute for African American Studies, University of Connecticut

Education: Ph.D., History, Indiana University; M.A., History, Indiana University; B.A., History, Morehouse College

Age: 35

While history for most conjures up images of places and experiences far removed, for Dr. Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, the field provides a "wonderful medium" to illuminate contemporary issues as well.

Much of Ogbar's current research centers on events occurring in the latter half of the 20th century, such as the civil rights and Black power movements as well as what more commonly is being referred to as the hip-hop movement. Examining these contemporary events provides a unique opportunity for Ogbar to investigate the living and their influence on today's society and culture.

For instance, for his dissertation, which looked at the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party during the years of 1955 and 1975, Ogbar was fortunate to interview major figures from the era, such as Bobby Seale and Elaine Brown of the Black Panther Party. In many cases living subjects are resistant to having their lives probed by scholars, but Ogbar says he received a lot of support from those who were involved in the Black power movement.

"I was very excited to have so many people want to share their stories and to make this history more known," Ogbar says.

That history is explored in more depth in his book Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. Published last year, the book is an extension of his dissertation, looking further into the two organizations he initially focused on, but also looking at the entire Black power movement and its influence on contemporary politics and culture.

The book is one of the few published academic studies on the subject. Although the movement has garnered attention in popular culture, with biographies, autobiographies and movies dedicated to key leaders from the era, there remains little published academic scholarship on the movement in general, and on the Black Panther Party in particular, according to Ogbar. …