Today we remember the life and legacy of Julius Scott, who was a longtime member of the faculty at the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He was jointly appointed in the Department of History and the Department of Afroamerican & African Studies, for which he served as a spiritual compass. For years everyone "in the know" poured over his ground-breaking 1986 dissertation done at Duke University, where he earned his PhD. Everyone else was able to catch up in 2018 when the work was published as The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution by Verso. U-M History marked the publication and reflected on Julius's impact in "Celebrating Julius S. Scott's The Common Wind" in 2019 . Two passages in the latter article, written by Greg Parker, stand out in particular:
“For me, the insights in Julius Scott’s The Common Wind are intertwined with those he offered in conversations we had over the years of my graduate training at the University of Michigan,” wrote Laurent Dubois (PhD 1998), John L. Bicentennial Professor in the History of Principles and Democracy and Director for Academic Affairs of the Democracy Initiative, University of Virginia. “The reason his work has had such a profound influence on so many, including me, is because Scott offered a way of seeing the world of the Haitian Revolution–and of listening in on it–in a fashion that was quite fittingly revolutionary.”
“It has been fascinating to re-read this landmark study of the movement of people and ideas in the greater Caribbean, now between hard covers. New ideas emerge, footnotes jump up from the page, and familiar stories take on added depth,” said Rebecca J. Scott, Charles Gibson Distinguished University Professor of History and Professor of Law at U-M."
It's significant that The Common Wind was also just recently translated into Spanish (El Viento común), which Julius was able to hold in his hands this past July. I also understand that plans are underway for a Portuguese edition and, in the future, possibly a French one as well.
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. For many of us, these conversations took place in his impossibly book-lined and book-and paper-filled offices. His generosity with his time and insight was all the more remarkable given his health challenges, which began in 1973 with a diagnosis of Type I diabetes and which he battled, relentlessly, till the end. This wonderful scholar and teacher passed peacefully, surrounded by family, on Monday morning, December 6, 2021. He is survived by his mother and his longtime partner Elisha Renne (professor Emerita in Afroamerican & African Studies and Anthropology) as well as all of us who are lucky enough to count ourselves among his students, colleagues, and friends.