Questioning Conversations

Questioning Conversations Video Series now Live!

The Questioning Conversations video series will present the newest trends in the history of the Underground Railroad through vibrant conversations between top young academics and some of the most exciting artists active today in film, music and other media.

In a respectful way that honors the questions and the knowledge held by both parties, these conversations will introduce audiences to both the facts of the past and the craft of history. History is not just names and dates but the work of highly skilled researchers who work hard to uncover long-buried treasures from our nation’s past. Through these dialogues, Questioning Conversations will reveal these newly discovered treasures from our past – especially those connected to the Underground Railroad – as well as the ways that the craft of history has uncovered this valuable new information.
The following videos are the beginning of the series.

Derrick R. Spires

Associate Professor of Literatures in English at Cornell University

Scholar of 19-century Black literature and culture.

Author of the award-winning book, The Practice of Citizenship (2019).

Featured in the film, “Becoming Frederick Douglass.”

He is currently at work on his next book: Serial Blackness. For more on Derrick Spires go to his website at:

Josh Johnson

Stand-up comedian, writer, musician and performer.

His 2023 show, “Up Here Killing Myself,” was featured on Peacock.

Has written for The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

He toured with Trevor Noah in 2019 as part of the Loud and Clear Tour and is Comedy Central’s ‘most watched comedian ever’ with 40M+ views to date across their platforms.

For more of Josh Johnson go to his website at:

Internationally renowned Hawaiian falsetto music star Kamakakēhau Fernandez was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and adopted as a 6-week old African American infant and brought to the shores of Maui, Hawaiʻi. It is here that his new family and home shaped Kamakakēhau (Kamaka) Fernandez into one of Hawaiʻi’s refreshing talents. Kamaka’s education played a huge part in his love and appreciation for Hawaiian culture and music and now shares this as an educator teaching Hawaiian language, ’Ukulele and many other skills to do with Hawai’i’s culture in effort to keep Hawai’i’s language alive and thriving. A fluent speaker of the Hawaiian language he provided voiceover work for the Hawaiian language version for Disney’s feature film “Moana”, has won several local music competitions, and his debut solo album "Wahi Mahalo" won the 2013 Nā Hōkū Hanohano Music Award for EP Album of the year. His life and work is being featured in the upcoming feature documentary, “Kamakakēhau: The Heart’s Desire.” For more on Kamakakēhau Fernandez go to:

Dr. Akiemi Glenn, Executive Director is the founder and executive director of the Pōpolo Project. She holds an MA and PhD in linguistics from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and a BA in linguistics from New York University. Glenn is a scholar and community worker who specializes in studying culture and facilitating community change on large and small scales.

A filmmaker, artist, and cultural practitioner with genealogical ties to the forest and coastal areas currently known as North Carolina and Virginia, her research, curation, and work in Indigenous language revitalization and in community-based culture education centers the experience of diaspora and the potential of radical connection for profound change. Her community work in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific Islands region brings together language, art, environmental and social justice, and education. She is also the co-founder and principal at Hawaiʻi Strategy Lab, a mixed-methods research endeavor that brings together data and culture in the service of social justice. She was formerly the director of Tele!, a language revitalization and engagement project in Hawai‘i's Tokelauan community funded by the federal Administration for Native Americans and administered by Te Taki Tokelau Community Training & Development. For more on Akiemi Glenn go to:

Tiya Miles is currently the Michael Garvey Professor of History and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of six books, including the prize-winning histories: The Dawn of Detroit: A Chronicle of Slavery and Freedom in the City of the Straits (2017), The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (2010), and Ties That Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (2005, 2015). Her latest book, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (2021) was awarded the National Book Award for Nonfiction as well as numerous other prizes. She has also published historical fiction and essays in a variety of publications including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic. She has consulted with colleagues at historic sites and museums on representations of slavery, African American material culture, and the Black-Native intersectional past, including, most recently, the Fabric of a Nation quilt exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her work has been supported by a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Award, the Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more about Tiya Miles go to:

Jonita Davis is the founder and editor-at-large of The Black Cape, “the Black Cinema’s Anorak Pop Entertainment Media Magazine.” She is a film and culture critic, author, and freelance writer. Davis has three published books and is currently a member of the AAFCA (African American Film Critics Association), NABJ (National Association for Black Journalists), the CIC (Chicago Independent Critics), Film Independent, HCA (Hollywood Critics Association, IFSC (International Film Society Critics, and is a Rotten Tomatoes Independent Critic.

For more about Jonita Davis go to:

Last updated: May 16, 2024