Julius S. Scott, Noted Scholar and Professor of Caribbean History, Passes Away at 66Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, Caribbean history
Julius S. Scott, a highly-regarded scholar of slavery and Caribbean history, passed away last Monday, the Washington Post reports. He was 66.
Scott’s passing was confirmed by his partner, Elisha Renne, who said that he had suffered from Type 1 diabetes and his health had rapidly declined over the last month. He was a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, where Renne was also a professor.
Angela D. Dillard, chair of the school’s history department, paid tribute to Scott in a statement on behalf of the school.
“Dr. Scott began teaching at Michigan in 1991 and continued to shape our collective understanding of Atlantic history, slavery, the Haitian Revolution, and the lives and struggles of Black peoples from across the African diaspora—and jazz, always jazz—through classroom instruction, symposia, and conversations too numerous to count,” Dillard said. “For many of us, these conversations took place in his impossibly book-lined and book-and paper-filled offices.”
Born in Marshall, Texas, Scott, the son of a Methodist clergyman, lived all over the country as his father took on various pastoral assignments. According to his mother, Ann Scott, he precocious young student with a remarkable gift of language.
Scott would graduate from Brown University and earn a doctorate from Duke University. For decades he was little known outside the academic world but he was a hero within it—beginning with a thesis he completed at Duke in 1986. His paper long remained unpublished but became the subject of academic folklore. The document was so popular among scholars that Harvard University’s Vincent Brown described it as “an underground mix-tape.”
In a 2018 interview with Publishers Weekly, Scott said that he was inspired by the idea for The Common Wind after reminiscing about childhood memories of watching the track stars John Carlos and Tommie Smith with fist-raised, giving the Black Power salute during a medals ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.
“As a young African-American, I noticed other Black athletes from Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, and I thought about their relationship to Afro-North Americans, and what were some of the important vehicles of communication between Black people in different parts of the Americas,” he recalled.
Scott was stunned by how influential his dissertation had become in academic circles.