The Afro-Turks and Black Consciousness in the Middle East


Fri, 10/30/2020 - 3:00pm to Thu, 06/30/2022 - 3:18am


Part of the Fall 2020 Middle Eastern and North African Studies Colloquium Series

Nikki Brown, Associate Professor of History and African American & African Studies, University of Kentucky 


The Afro-Turks represent a cross-cultural encounter and an emergent history, linking the Near East, eastern Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Ottoman empire. As the descendants of enslaved peoples from eastern Africa, Afro-Turks and their ancestors date back to a period of enslavement between 1860 and 1923. Mustafa Olpak, the late leader of the Afro-Turk community in Izmir Turkey, wrote a memoir of his family and of his life as an Afro-Turk, offering an extraordinary perspective on citizenship, identity, and nationality. In this lecture, Nikki Brown will talk about Olpak's memoir and the key events in Olpak’s life that formed his identity. Brown will also discuss the project of translating Olpak’s memoir for an American audience. 

Nikki Brown is an Associate Professor of History and of African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky. Brown’s book, Private Politics and Public Voices: African American Women’s Politics from World War I to the New Deal, explored the attempts made by African American women to shape public policy between 1915 and 1920. Private Politics and Public Voices was awarded the 2007 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Prize as best book in African American women’s history. Brown has won two Fulbright awards to Turkey. In 2014 and in conjunction with the State Department, Brown began work with Mustafa Olpak, the director of the Afro-Turk Association. Brown returned to Turkey for the academic year 2018-2019 to edit Olpak’s memoir about his life as an Afro Turk. Brown is also collecting oral histories for the Afro-Turk Association.

This event will be on Zoom. Registration required before 3pm on 10/29. We will post the link to the survey that you will need to fill out to attend here:


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