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Butler presents at historians conference at the University of Cambridge

Jul 31, 2018

Professor of History Dr. Michael Butler, presented in June at the University of Cambridge for the annual Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) conference.

Dr. Mike Butler sitting down with his presentation.

His paper, "'A Soulful Prophet of the Chosen People:' Isaac Hayes, 'Black Moses,' and the post-1960s American Black Freedom Struggle" was one part of a panel focusing on civil rights and black voices after the 1960s.

We recently caught up with Dr. Butler to discuss the conference and the future of his research after presenting among distinguished faculty from notable institutions.

What made you initially embark on this particular topic within the wider scope of your previous research?

My focus on Isaac Hayes really came from a variety of my teaching and research specialties - it combines African-American, popular music, cultural studies, civil rights, and Black Power scholarship in ways that few scholars have considered. I actually started my research with a focus on the 1972 Wattstax concert, but everything I found took me back to Isaac Hayes and the state of Stax Records after the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis.

Do you foresee any further opportunities to present this particular body of work as a direct result of your presentation at HOTCUS? 

I only touched upon one aspect of my longer essay for this conference, which was how Isaac Hayes and "Black Moses" presented a new image of African-American masculinity to the masses in the post-civil rights era. Other aspects could go into Black Power, economic advancement, and cultural representations of African-American art, among others. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to expand upon these themes in future conference papers.

What’s in store for this body of work beyond presentations?

The comments and questions that I received at HOTCUS really encouraged me to pursue both publication of the essay in an academic journal and the development of a larger monograph of the many themes the paper explored. With a little more research, I will also be able to gauge whether this may be my next major book project.

Conferences serve as great opportunities for making connections. What connections did you make with other faculty to converge research or pursue joint projects?

I made several great connections with colleagues who are at the University College of London's Institute of the Americas, the Institute of International Economics Relations (IDOS) in Athens, Greece, and Boston University, among others. The experience I had at Cambridge really opened my eyes to the interest many world-class research institutions have in twentieth-century American history, particularly in the field of race relations. I also see further conference potential on the topic. As a Kenan Distinguished Professor, I am exploring the use of my research funds to sponsor such a gathering or other ways to fund such an endeavor.


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