Our Distinguished Honorees
Our honorees range from 20th century trailblazing Friends of African Descent back to early Quakers of Color who are too often forgotten. Some of their stories will challenge Friends to consider what defines a Quaker, as we examine the lives of extraordinary people of color who were Friends in all but name, and ask ourselves what may have prevented or deterred them from joining the Religious Society of Friends. We will conclude with a special celebration of the momentous 125th birthday of beleaguered leader Paul Robeson, a descendant of over 200 years of USA and British Quakers. Click on the images below to learn about the lives and achievements of this year’s distinguished honorees.
Honoring Quaker descendant Paul Robeson, the “beleaguered leader” and “artist as revolutionary,” groundbreaking recording, film, theatrical, and music star. Featuring a discussion between Robeson scholars Dr. Gerald Horne, Dr. Charles Musser, and Dr. Harold D. Weaver.
Saturday, 8 April 2023: Paul Robeson: Tribute to an Artist (1978) and The Proud Valley (1940) – Celebrating Paul Robeson’s 125th Birthday
Honoring Quaker descendant Paul Robeson, the “beleaguered leader” and “artist as revolutionary,” groundbreaking recording, film, theatrical, and music star.
Featuring a discussion between Robeson scholars Dr. Gerald Horne, Dr. Charles Musser, and Dr. Harold D. Weaver.
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Our SPECIAL Guest Experts
We will reflect on each film with a post-screening dialogue and audience Q & A with eminent scholar-activists, writers, & historians, some of whom are descendants of our honorees. Learn more about our guest experts by clicking on their photos below.
Bill Sutherland (1918 - 2 Jan 2010), a long term AFSC leader, was important in the African and African American liberation movements. As a non-violence leader, he aided Ghanaian Founding PM Kwame Nkrumah and political leader Komla Gbedemah. He served Tanzanian founding President Julius Nyerere & liberation movement/leaders in southern Africa. With co-author Dr. Matthew Meyer, he wrote Guns & Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, & Liberation In Africa (2001).
Joan Countryman (b. 6 Mar 1940) grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and was the first African-American graduate of Germantown Friends School in 1958. Her career in education included serving as a teacher and administrator in Friends schools, as the Head of Lincoln School in Providence, RI, as the Interim Head of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, and as the Interim Head of the Atlanta Girls’ School. She has been a member of Germantown Monthly Meeting since 1958.
Sarah Mapps Douglass (9 Sept 1806 - 8 Sept 1882) was a prolific abolitionist, educator, and author featured in numerous anti-slavery journals. She was especially interested in educating young Black women about their bodies. She endured lifelong racial prejudice and was forced to sit on the segregated back bench in the Arch Street Meeting. She confronted racism wherever she encountered it, even in the Society of Friends.
Benjamin Banneker (9 Nov 1731 - 19 Oct 1806) was a peerless astronomer, author, surveyor, and farmer. Born a free man of Senegalese descent, he helped establish the boundaries of Washington D.C. and even petitioned Thomas Jefferson on behalf of enslaved African Americans. He attended Quaker meetings for much of his life.
Paul Robeson (9 Apr 1898 - 23 Jan 1976), the “beleaguered leader,” legendary scholar-activist, athlete, and “artist as revolutionary:” groundbreaking recording, film, theatrical, and musical star. He was a descendant of over 200 years of USA and UK Quakers by way of the Bustill family, including fellow honoree Sarah Mapps Douglass. We will close our festival with a celebration of his 125th birthday.
AFSC General Secretary Joyce Ajlouny has served as the executive head of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) since September 2017, overseeing the organization’s worldwide efforts for peace and justice. As a Palestinian-American Quaker leader, Joyce has been a seeker of refugee rights, gender equality, and economic aid throughout a long career in international development. She is a member of Ramallah Monthly Meeting and attends several monthly meetings in the USA.
Keith B. Harvey is the Director of the Northeast Region of the AFSC since 1992. He has led workshops on non-violence training, Criminal Justice history, and International Debt, sat on the Philadelphia Planning committee for the U.S. Social Forum; and served as both member and chair of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute Board of Directors. Keith currently sits on the Massachusetts Peace Action Board and works with the MA Poor People's Campaign coordinating committee.
Dr. Matt Meyer is an internationally noted author, historian, and organizer of over 30 years. His publications include Guns & Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle, & Liberation In Africa (co-authored in 2000 with honoree Bill Sutherland). He is the Senior Research Scholar of UMass Amherst’s Resistance Studies Initiative and currently serves leadership roles with the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and the War Resisters’ International (WRI).
Joan Countryman grew up in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and, in 1958, was the first African-American graduate of Germantown Friends School. Her career in education included serving as a teacher and administrator in Friends schools, as the Head of Lincoln School in Providence, RI, as the Interim Head of The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, and as the Interim Head of the Atlanta Girls’ School. She has been a member of Germantown Monthly Meeting since 1958.
André Robert Lee is an award-winning filmmaker, keynote speaker, consultant, writer, and educator. André has served as a professor of writing at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and teaches Filmmaking at the Germantown Friends School, where he worked to develop a film program for their students. His most recent award-winning film, Virtually Free (2021), tells the story of incarcerated youth in Richmond, Virginia, and is still on the festival route.
Dr. Emma Jones Lapsansky-Werner is an Emerita Professor of History and the Emerita Curator of the Quaker Collection at Haverford College. With Gary Nash and Clayborne Carson, she authored Struggle for Freedom, a college text on African American History. Her current work includes: a history of a Bryn Mawr Quaker family; a study of a Philadelphia multi-cultural intentional community; and a biography of contemporary Quaker Chuck Fager. She is a member of Lansdowne Monthly Meeting in Lansdowne, PA.
Joyce Mosley, author of Graham’s Gift (2020) has documented her family history of African American and European American Quakers, including the first mayor of Philadelphia. Joyce has presented her family research at genealogy conferences, including the African American Historical and Genealogical Society and the African American Genealogy Group. In 2019, Joyce’s important family research was featured in a WHYY-TV/PBS episode of “Movers and Makers.”
Dr. Rachel Jamison Webster is the author of the March 2023 book, Benjamin Banneker & Us: Eleven Generations of an American Family, creative nonfiction that explores ancestry, race, gender, & justice in American history as Webster and her DNA cousins discuss racial justice, genealogy, & stories of their ancestors. Rachel is Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Northwestern University, where she has received multiple awards for her design and implementation of anti-racist curricula.
Pamela Williams is an educator in the Burlington School District (VT) with a background in clinical social work & research, including instructional support, counseling, Restorative Practice, mindfulness in education, & coordination of service learning projects at local and international levels. Former faculty at Westtown School, Packer Collegiate Institute, & Stone Ridge School, she has also been an instructor at Bryn Mawr College School of Social Work and the Community College of Vermont.
Gwen Marable, is a retired educator. Her family discovered their relationship to the man known as the country’s first African- American scientist, Benjamin Banneker. Jemima Banneker, Benjamin’s sister, was Marable’s fifth grandmother.
Dr. Gerald Horne holds the Moores Professorship of History & African American Studies at the University of Houston. He is the author of Paul Robeson: The Artist As Revolutionary (2016) and has researched issues of racism in a variety of relations involving labor, politics, civil rights, international relations, & war. He has written about the film industry. His courses include the Civil Rights Movement, U.S. History through Film, Labor History, & 20th Century African American History.
Dr. Charles Musser teaches Film & Media Studies and American Studies at Yale University. Charlie co-curated a series of Robeson film retrospectives for the Paul Robeson centennial in 1998. He also co-curated the DVD set, Pioneers of African American Cinema, with Jackie Stewart and the catalog, Oscar Micheaux and His Circle, with Pearl Bowser and Jane Gaines. He has published extensively on American early cinema, Robeson, Micheaux, Bill Greaves, and Spike Lee.
our director, curator, & HOST
Dr. Harold D. Weaver, Alumni Fellow at Harvard University's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, is the Founding Director of the BlackQuaker Project (BQP). A pioneer in Africana Studies in the early 1970s, Hal founded and chaired the Africana Studies Department at Rutgers University, through which he was able to focus attention on the neglected legacy of the great Rutgers alumnus: Paul Robeson. At Rutgers, Hal taught the first course in the world on Robeson, made an instructional film on Robeson’s life and accomplishments, and, most importantly, initiated the successful action to award Robeson an honorary doctorate in 1973. In celebration of Robeson’s 75th birthday in 1973, Hal organized the first Robeson symposium and the first Robeson film retrospective in the United States. For the past 50 years, Hal has worked to restore Robeson’s legacy to its rightful place in world history, through publications, lectures, films and film retrospectives, and symposia.
Changed for life by his exposure to Quakerism at Westtown School and Haverford College, Hal combined his faith and activism into the BQP. He has produced several publications important to Quakers, including Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights (with Paul Kriese and Steve Angell, 2011) through FGC Press and the Pendle Hill pamphlet, Race, Systemic Violence, and Retrospective Justice: An African American Quaker Scholar-Activist Challenges Conventional Narratives (2020). He has served in various Quaker governance roles with QUNO-New York, AFSC Board and International Programs Executive Committee, Pendle Hill, Cambridge Friends School, Friends General Council, and the Friends World Committee for Consultation. In 2022, he was awarded an alumni Lifetime Achievement Award from Haverford College. He is an active member of the Wellesley Friends Meeting, which sponsors his ministry.