NEW YORK – The Eastern Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented The Hellenic Revolution and Its Effects on the American Abolitionist Movement Panel Discussion Webinar on February 21, in association with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce and AHEPA’s Hellenic Cultural Commission.
The panel for this unique event was introduced and moderated by Lou Katsos, EMBCA’s President/Founder who also participated in the discussion offering background on the history of the time period.
The distinguished panel included author/poet Nicholas Alexiou, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Hellenic American Project at Queens College; author, historian, poet, editor, and activist Dan Georgakas, the Director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine & Modern Greek Studies at Queens College and a longtime contributor to The National Herald, and author, historian, activist Herb Boyd, Professor of the Black Studies Program at the City College of New York, CUNY.
Also participating in the discussion were Hellenic American National Council President Bill Matarangas and Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce President Lloyd Williams.
As mentioned in previous EMBCA panel discussions, this discussion further elaborated on Katsos and Prof. Alexiou’s lecture conducted at Queens College’s Rosenthal Library on April 15, 2019. It was organized by EMBCA, Prof. Alexiou’s The Hellenic American Project /Queens College Sociology Department, and the Black History Month Committee of Queens College. In the program relating to the Hellenic Revolution of 1821 Katsos and Alexiou presented on the “Contributions of African Americans in the Hellenic Revolution of 1821, and Early American Philhellenes Ushering in the Abolition and Suffrage Movements,” a topic on the Revolution rarely (if ever) discussed. The panel on Feb. 21 focused in more depth on the American Abolitionist Movement as influenced by the Hellenic Revolution in honor of Black History Month.
Katsos and Williams have been close friends for many years, both noted that they are family, and Katsos’ son, John, is Williams’ godson. As Williams pointed out, many around the world and across the country spend a great deal of time trying to divide people, but there is a need to address the things we have in common and events like the one hosted by EMBCA on the Hellenic Revolution and the Abolitionist Movement bring to light connections that are not very well known. He also noted the event was taking place on the 56th grim anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, who was also Williams’ godfather.
The fascinating discussion highlighted a few of the individuals who participated in the Hellenic Revolution and then took up the cause of American Abolition including Jonathan Peckham Miller and Samuel Gridley Howe who went to Greece as a surgeon and later became well-known as an Abolitionist. His wife, Julia Ward Howe, is best known today for the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Greek orphans who were adopted in the United States were also noted for their efforts raising awareness and funds for the Greek cause through the many Greek Committees which were formed to support the Revolution.
Prof. Alexiou spoke about James Williams, a slave from Baltimore who managed to secure his freedom and joined the U.S. Navy, fighting in the Barbary Wars and then in the Hellenic Revolution from 1822 until his death in 1827 in Greece. He participated in the Liberation of Athens and the siege of Missolonghi among other battles and while his burial site in Argos is known, a monument was being planned before the pandemic hit and Prof. Alexiou noted will hopefully be installed soon to commemorate Williams and George Jarvis, another American Philhellene who made the ultimate sacrifice and is also buried in Argos.
Prof. Boyd noted that the Abolitionist movement was a beneficiary of the Hellenic Revolution since the revolt feeling of the 1820s led so many to become involved in the anti-slavery movement. He added that the discussion brings us together to explore the conjunction of struggle and the commonalities but a deep dive is needed since there is so much to understand.
Lord Byron, “the rock star of his time,” was also mentioned for his efforts to help the Greeks win their freedom for themselves, as Dan Georgakas pointed out, noting that self-determination was at the heart of the revolutionary spirit. The grassroots nature of the Hellenic Revolution appealed to Americans because it was the common man in Greece fighting against the oppressive Ottoman Empire. The United States which was inspired by Ancient Greece was now inspiring modern Greece in its fight for freedom and democracy.
The event was part of EMBCA’s ongoing American Hellenic Revolution of 1821 Bicentennial Committee series of events focusing not only on the Revolution but also importantly on the American, Diaspora, and International aspects and influences of the Revolution for its 200 Year Anniversary.
The video of the event is available online: https://bit.ly/2ZkH18A.
More information about upcoming EMBCA events is also available online: https://embca.com/.