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This article seeks to understand what pandemics teach us about servant leadership. It analyzes two texts, which reflect on people of color’s experiences becoming servant leaders during such public health crises: A Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, during the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793 (1794) and The Auntie Sewing Squad Guide to Mask Making, Radical Care, and Racial Justice (2021). These texts balance detailed depictions of what this leadership praxis looks like with trenchant critiques of how service, racism, and leadership tend to intersect in the United States. As texts that demonstrate the value of servant leadership under pandemic conditions while also exposing its imbrication in systems of racialized oppression, the Narrative and the Guide reveal servant leadership’s complicity with systemic white supremacy and corollary extractive logics in American contexts. This article builds on scholarly conversations about how race and gender impact recognition of servant leadership by drawing on the work of Saidiya Hartman, particularly two concepts she develops through analysis of post-Emancipation labor: indebted servitude and property in the self. These concepts help illuminate how racialized attitudes toward compulsory servitude extend to the praxis of servant leadership for people of color.



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