Oct. 1 and 2, 2021 • Virtual Symposium

Join us as scholars, historians, archivists, and community members share papers and discuss next steps towards celebrating Shadd Cary’s 200th birthday in 2023.

Streaming live on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DigBlk and on YouTube at http://bit.ly/digblk_youtube.



FRIDAY, OCT. 1 • 10AM-3:30PM EST

10:00am – 11:15am

PANEL 1: Provincial Freeman/Transnational Freewoman [tentative]
• Jewon Woo, Lorain County Community College
“Two Mary Carys: Black Women’s Friendship in Canada West” [tentative]

• Kirsten Lee, University of Pennsylvania
“Mary Ann Shadd in Mexico”

• Brandi Locke, University of Delaware
“They would agitate for independence of thought and action”: Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Black Feminist Organizing in Washington D.C., 1867 to 1893

Moderated by Arline Wilson, University of Delaware

11:15am – 12:00pm


12:00pm – 1:00pm

Opening keynote with Rinaldo Walcott, University of Toronto

1:00pm – 2:00pm


2:00pm – 3:15pm

PANEL 2: Laboring for Freedom [tentative]
• RJ Boutelle and Marlas Yvonne Whitley, UNC Greensboro and NC State University
“Plotting New Gardens: The Black Feminist Roots of Community-Building in A Plea for Emigration”

• Demetra P. McBrayer, University of Delaware
“Mapping Mary Ann Shadd Cary: Using Bibliographic Analysis to Uncover Labor”

• Eunice Toh, Penn State University
“Mary Ann Shadd Cary’s Soil Ecology”

• Lynnette Young Overby, University of Delaware
“Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Her Life and Legacy – A Production”

Moderated by Rachel Fernandes, Queens University

3:15pm – 3:30pm

Closing Notes


10:00am – 11:15am

Activating Archives and Anniversaries
• Lopez Matthews, Moorland-Spingarn
• Melissa J. Nelson, Black Canadian Archivist
• Curtis Small, Univ. of Delaware
• Sean Smith, Senior Archivist at Archives Ontario

Moderated by: Irene Moore Davis, St. Clair College

11:15am – 12:00pm


12:00pm – 1:15pm

Closing keynote by Martha Jones, Johns Hopkins University

1:15pm – 2:15pm

Conversation and Closing: Next Steps to 200th Anniversary
Audience breaks into smaller groups to discuss possible event ideas and come back to share with everyone.

Biographies of Presenters

Keynote Speakers

Rinaldo Walcott, keynote speaker Friday, Oct. 1, 12:00-1:00pm ET

Rinaldo Walcott is Professor of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. He is a Full Professor in the Women and Gender Studies Institute; and a member of the Graduate Program at the Institute of Cinema Studies. From 2002-2007 Rinaldo held the Canada Research Chair of Social Justice and Cultural Studies at OISE. His most recent books the Long Emancipation: Moving Toward Black Freedom from Duke University Press, 2021; and On Property (Biblioasis, 2021) which was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award. He was born in Barbados.

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Martha Jones, keynote speaker Saturday, Oct. 2, 12:00-1:15pm ET

Professor Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. Professor Jones is the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (2020), Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (2018),  All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830-1900 (2007) and a coeditor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press (2015), together with many articles and essay.

Panel 1: Provincial Freeman/Transnational Freewoman

Jewon Woo teaches African American, American, and women’s literature in addition to writing and humanities at Lorain County Community College, Ohio. Her research focuses on Black print culture, performance, early newspaper, pedagogy for underrepresented students, and digital humanities. She currently works on a DH project about Black periodicals in nineteenth-century Ohio.

Kirsten Lee is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research and teaching interests include early African American literature, class struggle, abolition, and gender and sexuality. She is currently completing a dissertation on the meaning and location of borders/borderlands in long nineteenth-century African American literature and political thought. 


Brandi Locke, Doctoral Student at University of Delaware, is interested in African American women writers of novels, pamphlets and newspapers in the Reconstruction Era.

Arline Wilson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the English Department at the University of Delaware. She will defend her dissertation, which examines 19th Century African American writers’ use of the gothic to articulate trauma, in Dec. 2021. She will join the CBDR team at Penn State in Spring 2021 as a lead researcher for the Mary Ann Shadd Cary digital archive project for the Black Womens’ Organizing Archive. She will work to prepare the project as it moves toward the center’s 2023 Douglass Day Celebration, which will feature Mary Ann Shadd Cary as the focus of its transcribe-a thon. Arline will also supervise an undergraduate team and work as a project liaison, building connections and collaborating with institutional partners, librarians and archivists. Her work will serve as a model to standardize the MASC project’s best practices so these procedures will model future work on Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and other key figures to be included in the Black Women’s Organizing Archive.

Panel 2: Provincial Freeman/Transnational Freewoman

R.J. Boutelle is a National Teaching Partner with the Colored Conventions Project. His research and teaching focuses on African American literature, hemispheric studies, and USAmerican literature in the long nineteenth century, analyzing the tensions between racial, national, and transnational identities that take shape through the lived experiences of diaspora.

Marlas Yvonne Whitley is a Master degree student at North Carolina State University, where she studies English and the digital humanities, while also weaving in other intellectual interests. She graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in English and minor in communication studies. 

Lynnette Overby is Professor of Theatre at University of Delaware and Artistic Director of SOL. She serves as co-editor of Dance: Current Selected Research and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Dance Education Organization.

Demetra McBrayer studies nineteenth-century American literature, focusing on women of color and the print culture and material cultures surrounding their lives, writings, and reception. This research seeks to recover and engage the roles these women play in long histories of intellectual theory.

Eunice Toh is a second-year PhD student pursuing a dual title degree in English and African American and Diaspora Studies. Her research centers on the topographies of race and the inorganic/inanimate in nineteenth-century American literature. She is specifically interested in Black ecologies, subterranean geologies, and posthumanism.

Rachel Fernandez Headshot

 Rachel Fernandes is a PhD candidate in English Language and Literature at Queen’s University and a Research Assistant with the Center for Black Digital Research where she works on the Mary Ann Shadd Cary project. Rachel’s dissertation explores expressions of the mixed race experience in different literary forms such as memoir, poetry, and the novel. 

Archivist Roundtable: Activating Archives and Anniversaries

Lopez Matthews Headshot

Lopez D. Matthews, Jr. is the Digital Production Librarian at Howard University Libraries and the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center. He is a commissioner on the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and a member of the board of directors of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. He has published several articles and is the author of Howard University in the World Wars: Men and Women Serving the Nation. In 2020, he became a Senior Advisor to the US Truth, Healing and Transformation Leadership Group.

Melissa J. Nelson is a second-generation Jamaican Canadian from Toronto, Ontario. Melissa currently works as the Research Assistant in Equity and Diversity for McGill University School of Information Studies. Prior to this, she held archival positions and placements at George Brown College Archives, The Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives, the Law Society of Ontario Archives, and Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections at York University. Melissa conducts research and produces content on history and archive related topics for her website melissajnelson.com.

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Curtis Small Coordinator of Public Services for Special Collections at University of Delaware, where he coordinates the reference, instruction and exhibition programs. Curtis’ research interests include the history of the African-American book, the history of the Colored Conventions Movement, and Caribbean francophone literature.

Sean Smith is a Senior Archivist in the Collections Development and Management Unit at the Archives of Ontario, located in Toronto. He previously held positions at the Clara Thomas Archives at York University and Library and Archives Canada. In total, he has been preserving and sharing history for over 20 years. During the pandemic, he has been focused on issues related to archives and community engagement, developing a GLAM Wiki presence for the Archives of Ontario and digital records.


Irene Moore Davis Headshot

Irene Moore Davis is a Windsor, Ontario-based educator, writer, historian, activist, and podcaster. She speaks frequently about diversity, inclusion, equity, and African Canadian history. She fulfills a variety of community roles including President of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, Co-Chair of Black Women of Forward Action, Co-Host of the All Write in Sin City podcast, and Program Chair at BookFest Windsor. Irene was Co-Executive Producer of the award-winning short documentary The North Was Our CanaanHer new documentary project is titled Across the River to Freedom (to be released in 2022.) A seventh generation African Canadian whose ancestral families include the Shadds, Irene is an administrator at St. Clair College, where she also teaches English, Underground Railroad history, and Black cultural studies.

This event was made possible with the support of:

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