CDTS Speaker Series: Professor Khary Polk, Amherst College

When and Where

Monday, February 28, 2022 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
via Zoom


This presentation showcases how an important figure from America’s military past fractured the circuit of militarized double consciousness and wrestled with the paradox of serving both his race and his country. The third African American officer to graduate from West Point, and the first to reach the rank of colonel, Charles Young saw himself as a cosmopolitan polymath and nascent black nationalist fashioned in the image of his close friend and confidant W. E. B. Du Bois. Striving to be recognized as one of the preeminent intellectuals of his race, through the litany of his identities—polyglot, poet, playwright, painter, composer, cartographer, linguist, scholar, and spy—he proved himself to be a consummate performer, producing a broad corpus of literary, scholarly, and creative work that has only begun to be appreciated by military historians and cultural critics alike.

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Speaker Biography

Khary Oronde Polk is Associate Professor of Black Studies & Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies at Amherst College, a cultural historian of the African American diaspora, a specialist in LGBTQ studies, and a scholar of race, gender, and sexuality in the U.S. military. He has written for the Studio Museum of Harlem, The Journal of Negro History, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Gawker, and the journal Biography. And he has also contributed essays to a number of queer of color anthologies, including If We Have To Take Tomorrow, Corpus, and Think Again. Polk recently held a visiting professorship at the JFK Institute for North American Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin and is the author of Contagions of Empire: Scientific Racism, Sexuality, and Black Military Workers Abroad, 1898-1948 (UNC Press, 2020), which was a finalist for the Organization of American Historians 2021 Lawrence Levine Prize, awarded to the best book in American cultural history.