Workshop: The Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists, 65 years later

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The Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists took place in Rome in March-April 1959. It was organized by the journal and publisher Présence Africaine and the Societé Africaine de Culture, in collaboration with the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa. The Congress was an unprecedented event in Italy, which gathered more than one hundred delegates from Africa, Americas, and Europe, including some of the most prominent intellectuals of the time. The event revolved around the crucial and problematic question of the unity of Black Africa (and beyond). It drew on and contributed to a network of transnational collaborations, between a variety of cultural and political institutions but also affective communities. For this reason, the Congress, as a key moment in the articulation of Black cultures and politics in and beyond Europe but also as an example of transnational exchanges in post-war Italy, merits urgent critical scrutiny.

This workshop aims to bring together the community of scholars, archivists, curators, and artists who are currently working on the Congress, approaching it from different angles. It will be an occasion to create a network, share first findings, discuss approaches and challenges, acknowledge the importance of the event in its 65th anniversary and prepare the ground for larger initiatives to mark its 70th anniversary in 2029.

Convenors Erica Bellia (University of Cambridge) and Luca Peretti (University of Warwick)



13.00 – 13.15 Welcome remarks by Dr. Maria Bonaria Urban (Director of Studies in History at KNIR) and the convenors of the workshop, Erica Bellia and Luca Peretti


13.15 – 14.45 Panel 1

Chair: Maria Bonaria Urban (KNIR)

  • Justin Randolph Thompson (artist and director Black History Month Florence and The Recovery Plan)

Recovery and Agency: Sankofian Intimations of the Second Congress of Black Artists and Writers

  • Beatrice Falcucci (Pompeu Fabra University)

The Museo and the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa: Just a Setting?

  • Gaia Delpino (Museo delle Civiltà) e Rosa Anna Di Lella (Museo delle Civiltà)

The Museum of Opacities and the Second Congress of Black Artists and Writers: Insight and Connections

  • Hamedine Kane (artist, Villa Medici)

 Le code Noir – Une circulation trans-nationale

  • Luca Peretti (University of Warwick, KNIR Fellow)

The Motel and the Intellectuals: Petroculture and the Second Congress of Black Artists and Writers


14.45 – 15.00 Coffee break


15.00 – 16.30 Panel 2

Chair: Jennifer Burns (University of Warwick)


  • Erica Bellia (University of Cambridge)

The Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists in the Italian Periodical Press

  • Jessica L. Harris (St. John’s University, American Academy Rome)

The African American Presence in 1950s and 1960s Rome

  • Mistura Allison (Curator, Villa Romana)

Notes on returning the gaze: visual stories from 1959 Rome (online)

  • Francesca De Rosa (Università L’Orientale, Naples) & Alessia Di Eugenio (Università di Bologna)

Unveiling the Archives: Perspectives on the Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists. Images in Dialogue and Paulin Vieyra’s Documentary

  • Melanie Masterton Sherazi (California Institute of Technology)

Critical Witness: William Demby’s Reportage on the 1959 Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists in Rome (online)


16.30 – 17.00 Screening of Présence Africaine à Rome (Paulin Soumanou Vieyra, 1959). Introduced by Stéphane Vieyra (online)


17.00 – 17.30 Coffee break


17.30 – 19.30 The Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists, towards the 70th anniversary (2029)

Chair: Erica Bellia and Luca Peretti


The roundtable will be attended by all the speakers of the first two panels, together with: Andrea Brazzoduro (Università L’Orientale, Naples),  Leonardo De Franceschi (Università di Roma Tre), Valeria Deplano (Università di Cagliari), Giulia Grechi (Accademia delle Belle Arti, Naples), Rachel Love (University of Pittsburgh), Marie Moïse (John Cabot University), Morad Montazami (curator, Villa Medici, Rome), Alessandro Pes (Università di Cagliari), Angelica Pesarini (University of Toronto), Peter Sarram (John Cabot University), Silvia Vari (University of Warwick), Rhiannon Welch (University of Berkeley)



About the convenors

Luca Peretti is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick. He wrote Un dio nero un diavolo bianco. Storia di un film non fatto tra Algeria, Eni, Solinas e Sartre (Marsilio, 2023) and co-edited volumes on terrorism and cinema (Postmedia books, 2014), Pier Pasolini Pasolini (Bloomsbury Academics, 2018), and on Italian cinema and Algeria (AAMOD, 2022). His work has appeared in, among others, Senses of Cinema, The Italianist, Interventions. International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Annali d’Italianistica, Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, Historical Materialism, Comunicazioni Sociali, L’Avventura, He is the editor-in-chief of Cinema e Storia. He wrote and co-produced the film Mister Wonderland (dir. Valerio Ciriaci, 2019) and collaborates with newspapers and magazines.

Erica Bellia is a Gulbenkian Early-Career Fellow in Italian at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. She is currently working on a research project entitled Anthologising Blackness in Post-Fascist Italy, which looks at anthologies of Black Literature published in Italy from 1945 to the present. Between September and December 2023, she was a Rome Awardee at the British School at Rome, where she conducted research on how the Italian periodical press reacted to the Second Congress of Black Writers and Artists (Rome, 1959). Erica is also working on her first monograph, based on her PhD: The Colonial Allegory: Narratives of Industry and Decolonization in Italy, 1955-1965. She is an active member of the OBERT (Observatoire Européen des Récits du Travail).



This event is sponsored by the KNIR and the Institute of Advanced Study (University of Warwick)



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Header: Former Museum of Italian Africa, Rome, photo by Luca Dammicco, February 2023
Square image: Frantz Fanon at a press conference during a writers’ conference in Tunis, 1959, Wikimedia commons