Netherlands American Studies Association

Debby Esmeé de Vlugt 2024

On 8 May 2024, NASA board member Debby Esmeé de Vlugt successfully defended her PhD dissertation ‘A New Feeling of Unity: Decolonial Black Power in the Dutch Atlantic (1968-1973)’ at Leiden University. Debby Esmeé started her PhD at the Roosevelt Institute for American Studies in 2019 in Middelburg under the supervision of Professors Damian Pargas and Giles Scott-Smith. In this dissertation, she examines why and how activists in Curaçao, Suriname, and the Netherlands aligned with the transnational Black Power movement. Based on an analysis of four self-proclaimed Black Power organizations – the Black Panthers of Curaçao (1968-1970), Antillean Black Power (1969-1970), the Dutch Black Panther Solidarity Committee (1969-1970), and Black Power Suriname / Afro-Sranan (1970-1973) – she argues that Black Power came to represent a distinct path to decolonization, based on racial solidarity, cooperation, and unity. This set Black Power activists apart from the nationalist movements of the region.

Debby Esmeé hopes her research will help to build new bridges between American, Caribbean, and Dutch Studies. Having previously studied American Studies at University College Roosevelt (2013-2016) and US History at the University of Oxford (2016-2017), she sees her work as an attempt to highlight new connections, exchanges, and circulations in the Atlantic World. “I think we have much to gain from such an approach to these fields,” she writes. “We often study the United States in isolation, while American society was never really detached from the rest of the world. I think our work as Americanists needs to reflect this.” Looking forward, she hopes to continue exploring these themes through a new project on the history of European solidarity with the American Black Panther Party.