What Kids Can't Do: Youth, Historical Agency, and Authority

March 17, 2021 (Wednesday) / 5:00 pm


What Kids Can't Do: Youth, Historical Agency, and Authority

Abosede George

Associate Professor of History, Barnard College and Columbia University 

Sarah Maza

Jane Long Professor in the Arts and Sciences and Professor of History Northwestern University

Mia Bay

Roy F. and Jeanette P. Nichols Professor of American History, University of Pennsylvania

Can children or adolescents make rational choices? To what extent do they have agency or the ability to shape their own circumstances or destinies? Join leading historians Abosede George and Sarah Maza, in conversation with Penn’s Mia Bay, for a discussion about childrens’ lives in different parts of the world and in different eras, as well as how to think about the role of children in history more generally.

Cosponsored by the Department of History.

Abosede George is Associate Professor of History at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York. She teaches courses on migration, historical mapping, urban history, childhood and youth, and the study of women, gender, and sexuality in African History. Her book, Making Modern Girls: A History of Girlhood, Labor, and Social Development was published by Ohio University Press and received the Aidoo-Snyder Book Prize in 2015 from the Women's Caucus of the African Studies Association, as well as Honorable Mention from the New York African Studies Association. Her publications have appeared in the American Historical Review, the Journal of Social History, Comparative Studies in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Meridians, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and the Journal of West African History, among other outlets. She is steadily working on The Ekopolitan Project, a digital forum dedicated to historical research on migrant communities in nineteenth and twentieth century Lagos, West Africa. She seeks collaboration on building the collection of historical sources on migrant communities in Lagos from all descendants of the 19th century Lagos diaspora in Nigeria and around the world.  

Sarah Maza is Jane Long Professor in the History Department at Northwestern University. Her specialties are the history of France from the eighteenth century to the present, with an emphasis on society and culture, and questions of historical methodology.  She is the author of five books, the most recent of which is Thinking About History (University of Chicago Press, 2017), a teaching survey of the current state of the field. Her article “The Kids Aren’t All Right: Historians and the Problem of Childhood” will be published as part of a forum in the American Historical Review in October 2020.

Mia Bay is the Roy F. and Jeanette P. Nichols Professor of American History at University of Pennsylvania.  Prior to arriving at Penn in January 2018, Bay worked at Rutgers University, where she was a Professor of History and the Director of the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity. Professor Bay is a scholar of American and African American intellectual, cultural and social history, whose recent interests include black women’s thought, African American approaches to citizenship, and the history of race and transportation. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Yale University and a B.A. from the University of Toronto. Bay’s publications include The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas about White People, 1830-1925 (Oxford University Press, 2000); To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009) and the edited work Ida B Wells, The Light of Truth: The Writings of An Anti-Lynching Crusader (Penguin Books, 2014); as well as many articles and book chapters. She is also the co-author, with Waldo Martin and Deborah Gray White, of the textbook Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans with Documents (Bedford/St. Martins 2012, 1st Edition, 2016, 2nd Edition, 2020, 3rd Edition), and the editor of two collections of essays: Towards an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), which she co-edited with Farah Jasmin Griffin, Martha S. Jones and Barbara Savage, and Race and Retail: Consumption Across the Color Line (Rutgers University Press, 2015), which she co-edited with Ann Fabian. Bay’s current projects include a new book entitled Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance (forthcoming, Harvard University Press, 2021); and a book on the history of African American ideas about Thomas Jefferson.