Hosted at the Delaware Historical Society and the University of Delaware, April 24-26, 2015
This symposium, the first to take the convention movement as its focus, posed questions about the ways in which understandings of nineteenth-century campaigns for racial justice shift when the decades-long Colored Conventions movement stands alongside abolition and the underground railroad as one of the principal ways in which we conceive of early racial and justice movements. Presenters brought a wide range of interdisciplinary perspectives to the meeting: religious, historical, literary, gender, visual, and performance studies. Organizers and presenters highlighted the crucial work done by Black women, who have been largely erased from convention minutes, in the broader organizational and social networks that made these conventions possible. An edited collection, symposium video highlights, and online exhibits to complement featured essays are forthcoming. Watch this space!
Erica L. Ball is Associate Professor of American Studies and Chair of African American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. Professor Ball has a B.A. in history from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in history from the City University of New York Graduate Center. Professor Ball has published several essays on gender and class in nineteenth and early twentieth-century African American culture, and her first book, To Live an Antislavery Life: Personal Politics and the Antebellum Black Middle Class was published by the University of Georgia Press in 2012. She is currently conducting research for a book project on Slavery in the American Imagination and co-editing with Kellie Carter-Jackson a collection of scholarly essays on the iconic 1977 television series Roots.
Kabria Baumgartner is a historian of early America at the College of Wooster. She is fascinated by education and its social, political, and cultural implications, then and now. In her research and teaching, she asks: What kind of education do we need now? And what did education look like in early America? She received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011, where her dissertation on gender, activism, and African American education was awarded the Esther Terry Prize. Her first book, The Work of Time and Love, reveals how African American women in the antebellum era built a distinct tradition of educational activism that inspired subsequent generations to learn, teach, and educate. Kabria is on leave for the 2014-2015 academic year, supported by a Mellon African American History Fellowship from the Library Company of Philadelphia. Her work has been supported by the Spencer Foundation and the Great Lakes College Association.
Joan Bryant is Associate Professor of African American Studies at Syracuse University where she teaches African-American history, American religious history, women’s history, and research methods. She is the author of Reluctant Race Men: Black Opposition to the Practice of Race in 19th-Century America, (Oxford University Press, 2015). She founded and coordinates the Black Syracuse Project, which documents and preserves the history of Black life in Central New York thorough oral history and archival initiatives. Bryant graduated from the University of Delaware, received Master’s degrees from the New School for Social Research and Yale Divinity School, and earned the Ph.D. from Yale University.
Jim Casey is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Delaware with research interests in antebellum American culture and the digital humanities. His dissertation charts the evolution of editorship and editorial practice during the middle decades of the 19th century in a variety of newspapers whose editors innovated new ways of gathering, arranging, and printing periodicals. Jim was part of the inaugural group that launched the Colored Conventions Project and since then has been deeply involved in all aspects of the project.
Eric Gardner’s Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature (Mississippi, 2009) won the Research Society for American Periodicals/EBSCOhost Book Award and was a Choice “Outstanding Academic Title.” Deeply engaged with the recovery of “pre-Harlem” Black literature and culture, Gardner has also edited three books and written a score of articles published in venues ranging from American Literary History to PMLA. His new book Black Print Unbound: the Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture was written with the support of a Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and is scheduled for 2015 publication by Oxford University Press. Black Print Unbound provides the fullest material and cultural history available of the African Methodist Episcopal Church newspaper during and just after the Civil War and recovers a crucial set of texts written and produced by African Americans for African Americans. Gardner is Professor of English and Associate Dean of Arts and Behavioral Sciences at Saginaw Valley State University.
Margarita Simon Guillory is an Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester. Her research interests include American Spiritualism, identity construction in African American Religion, and social scientific approaches to religion. She has published articles in Culture and Religion and Pastoral Psychology. Her co-edited volume (with Drs. Stephen Finley and Hugh Page), Esotericism in African American Religious Experience, is forthcoming with Brill.
Andre E. Johnson serves in the department of Christianity and Culture as the Dr. James L. Netters Associate Professor of Rhetoric & Religion and African American Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary. He teaches classes in contextualized ministry, prophetic rhetoric, black church, African American theology, rhetoric and religion, pulpit rhetoric, race, and hip hop theology. Dr. Johnson also serves as an instructor in Communications and African American Studies at the University of Memphis. He also is currently Senior Pastor of Gifts of Life Ministries an inner-city church built upon the servant leadership philosophy. Dr. Johnson has a Masters of Divinity degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Communications. He is currently editing The Literary Archive of Henry McNeal Turner and has published the first three volumes, “An African American Pastor Before and During the American Civil War” (2010), “The Chaplain Letters,” (2012), and “American Reconstruction,” 2013. Dr. Johnson is also the author of The Forgotten Prophet: Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition, (2012) that won the 2013 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award. He is the editor of Urban God Talk: Constructing a Hip Hip Spirituality (2013). He also serves as editor of the popular Rhetoric Race and Religion Blog and is an avid blogger for The Huffington Post, Political Theology and Faith in Memphis.
Archaeologist and historian Cheryl Janifer LaRoche, Ph.D. teaches in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her first book Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: The Geography of Resistance was published in 2014 by the University of Illinois Press. As a public speaker, she combines law, history, oral history, archaeology, geography, and material culture to define nineteenth century African American cultural landscapes and their relationship to the Underground Railroad. Her work has taken her across the country, from New England to the banks of the Mississippi River and beyond. She has physically walked historic landscapes from New Hampshire to Missouri to Canada. Most recently she served as a project historian for the Smithsonian’s newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. She has consulted for the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, the African Meeting House in Boston and Nantucket, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, Baltimore, and a number of other historical sites and projects. She was the cultural heritage specialist for the President’s House archaeological site for URS and the National Park Service in Philadelphia. Dr. LaRoche was one of the authors of the National Significance of the Harriet Tubman Historic Area for the National Park Service and she was the lead author for “Resistance to Slavery in Maryland: Strategies for Freedom” for the Organization of American Historians and the National Park Service. She is the recipient of the John L. Cotter Award from The Society for Historical Archaeology for her exemplary work in bringing a multidisciplinary approach to the study of African American archaeology.
A. Nevell Owens is an associate professor of religion at Florida A&M University who teaches Women in Religion, Introduction to Christian Scriptures, Introduction to Hebrew Scriptures, and Black Religion in America. He earned his Ph.D. in Theological Studies from Emory University with an emphasis in nineteenth century evangelical thought and African-American theology, ecclesiology, and formation of the Black Church. Additionally, he has also done extensive study on the history of Christian Thought, particularly the myriad interrelations between Christianity and culture. Dr. Owens is an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, having served as pastor in several churches in the Florida Conference of the Eleventh Episcopal District. His role as pastor also contributes to his scholarly investigations concerning the interplay between African American Christian thought and its roots in the African continent. As a result of these theological investigations, a working thesis of Dr. Owens is that African American Christians must deal with the reality that most espouse Christianity because their African ancestors were forced to relinquish their indigenous gods and compelled to accept Christianity. This realization can necessitate a better understanding of their African heritage and how that heritage informs their Christian practice.
SARAH LYNN PATTERSON is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Delaware and a Co-coordinator with the Colored Conventions Project. She specializes in nineteenth-century African American (women’s) literature, print culture and Black histo-digital studies in the digital humanities. Sarah’s dissertation examines Black intellectual cultures and ideals, particularly through the lens of Black women’s educational philosophies in literature, 1856-1910. Sarah is a co-founder whose project specialties include data visualization, curriculum development, assessment and undergraduate research. She will co-edit the forthcoming volume, Colored Conventions in the Nineteenth Century and the Digital Age. @sarah_patterson
Carla L. Peterson is professor emerita in the Department of English and affiliate faculty of the Comparative Literature Program, Women’s Studies, American Studies, and African-American Studies at University of Maryland. Her publications include “Doers of the Word”: African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North, 1830-1880 (Oxford, 1995) and numerous essays on nineteenth-century African American literature and culture. Her most recent book, Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City (Yale, 2011), was awarded the 2012 prize for the best book on New York History by the New York Society Library and was a finalist for the Gilder-Lehrman 2012 Frederick Douglass Prize. Peterson has been the recipient of numerous fellowships, most notably from the Ford Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History, the New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Peterson’s scholarship also addresses non-academic audiences. She has conducted curriculum development workshops for public school teachers. She has served on several museum consulting teams, notably the Underground Railroad and Freedom Center in Cincinnati; two New York Historical Society exhibits on slavery and its legacy in New York City; the permanent exhibit of the planned Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; and currently the permanent exhibit on the history of New York City at the Museum of the City of New York. On television and radio, Peterson was an interviewed scholar for the TV documentaries, “Remembering Slavery” (PBS, 2005) and “The Remarkable Journey: Ticket to Freedom” (NBC 2004), and is currently consulting with PBS’s planned program on Edward Ball’s Slaves in the Family. She has published three essays for the online New York Times Disunion Project. Internationally, Peterson has served as a USIA academic specialist in American Studies at Quisqueya University, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; lectured in Japan; taught summer seminars in Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City; and was a visiting professor at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University in Berlin and in the American Studies Department at Tuebingen University.
Jean Pfaelzer, Ph.D., is author of California Bound: Slavery in the American West (forthcoming Yale Univ. Press); Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans (Random House & Univ. California Press) and four other books including Parlor Radical: Rebecca Harding Davis and the Origins of American Social Realism and The Utopian Novel in America: The Politics of Form. Driven Out will be published in Mandarin by Guandong Flower City Pub, PRC, in 2016. She is currently working on a PBS special, on “1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act” and a PBS/CCBS special on Chinese migration to the U.S. She is on the Chinese Railroad Workers Digital Humanities Project, Stanford Univ. and the national “1882” project. She was on the curatorial team for “I Want the Wide American Earth,” Smithsonian Museum of American History. Driven Out was named one of the 100 notable books of the year by the New York Times, and she was named Asian American Hero by Asian Librarians Association. She writes for Huffington Post, History News Network, and The Globalist and speaks on NPR and Pacifica on issues of labor and immigration. Jean is completing Muted Mutinies: Slave Revolts on Chinese Coolie Ships. Jean is a Professor of English, Women and Gender Studies, and Asian Studies at the University of Delaware where she teaches in Nineteenth Century American Studies, American Realism, American Women Writers, Asian American Culture and History, the Culture of Work, Feminist Theory, and Utopian Culture and Theory.
Daina Ramey Berry, Ph.D., is an associate professor of History and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Berry is a specialist in the history of gender and slavery with a particular emphasis on the social and economic history of the nineteenth century. She is author or editor of Swing the Sickle for the Harvest is Ripe: Gender and Slavery in Antebellum Georgia and Enslaved Women in America: An Encyclopedia. Berry has appeared on several syndicated radio and television shows including “Who Do You Think You Are?” On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians, she co-authored “An Open Statement to Fans of ‘The Help’.” She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She enjoys mentoring students and junior faculty and has always participated in public history programs on slavery through collaborative work at museums, historical societies, churches, and K-12 summer institutes. Berry will join the Colored Conventions Team when she finishes her NEH fellowship and her book, The Price for their Pound of Flesh. Her paper was written with and delivered by Jermaine Thibodeaux.
Selena Sanderfer, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Western Kentucky University and the Director of the Program in Southern Studies. She teaches courses in world history, American history and classes on the African Diaspora. Dr. Sanderfer has received research grants and fellowships in support of her work on Black Nationalism in the southern US including a short-term fellowship with the Mellon Scholars Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. In addition to articles featured in The Tennessee Historical Quarterly, The Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences and The Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, she is working on a book length manuscript examining the development of Black nationalism in the South from the American revolution to the post Civil War era. Her class will be the first to collect and upload the many petitions and “memorials” that delegates submitted to state legislatures and to Congress. She is contributing a chapter on postbellum conventions in the forthcoming edited collection based on the 2014 CCP hosted symposium. The exhibit The Postbellum Southern Conventions Movement and Emigration Debate is based on her essay.
Derrick R. Spires is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He received a PhD. in English from Vanderbilt University. His primary research and teaching interests include: representations of race and citizenship the U.S. before the Fourteenth Amendment, early African American print culture, and African American political aesthetics. His book project, Black Theories of Citizenship in the Early U.S. (1794-1861), analyzes the development of U.S. citizenship through the rich archive of early African American print culture, including pamphlets, periodical literature, short fiction, and convention proceedings. Spires’s research has been supported by fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the American Antiquarian Society, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Social Science Research Council, and the UNCF-Mellon Mays Graduate Initiative. He is co-editor with Houston A. Baker, Jr., of the Penguin Enriched eBook of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (2009), and his work on the black state convention movement appears in Early African American Print Culture in Theory and in Practice, edited by Lara Cohen and Jordan Alexander Stein (Pennsylvania, 2012).
Pamela Tilley is the Connectional Historiographer for the Lay Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Global activity. She served ten years as the Historiographer for the Tenth Episcopal District (Texas). She is the founder of two non-profit organizations, Heritage House International, that focuses on historical preservation and cultural awareness and Texas Women Veterans, which creates social entrepreneurship, mentorship programs and community engagement for female veterans. She is a 21 year veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces with a background in nursing. She holds several degrees in Non-Profit Management and Human Resource Development. She is a bi-lingual artist known for her passionate storytelling quilts and memory craft.
Jermaine Thibodeaux is currently a fourth-year graduate student in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. A native of Houston, Texas, Jermaine attended Cornell University (2004), where he was selected as a Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow. After earning an A.B. in History, with a certificate in the law and society program, Jermaine returned to Texas to teach middle school History and English. In the coming years, Jermaine hopes to complete a dissertation that explores the co-development of the Texas prison system and the state’s rarely discussed sugar industry. In that work, he plans to also interrogate the lives of the incarcerated and situate the range of black responses to rising imprisonment rates on the eve of the Progressive Era. His intellectual interests also broadly consider notions of masculinities, carceral spaces, capitalism, and the history and memory of American slavery.
Psyche Williams-Forson is associate professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park and an affiliate faculty member of the Women’s Studies and African American Studies departments and the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity. She is an Associate Editor of Food and Foodways journal, co-editor (with Carole Counihan) of Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World (Routledge 2011) and author of the award-winning, Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power(2006). She is currently at work on two new projects: one, tentatively titled Don’t Yuck My Yum: Food Shaming, Food Policing, and other African American Food Dilemmas, considers the numerous (often conflicting) African Americans experience on a daily basis as they navigate the vast food terrains. Another book in progress explores class, consumption, and citizenship among African Americans by examining domestic interiors from the nineteenth-century to the early twentieth-century. Dr. Williams-Forson is the recipient of numerous fellowships including a Smithsonian Museum Senior Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship, and a Winterthur Museum and Library Fellowship.
Jewon Woo is an assistant professor of English at Lorain County Community College, Ohio. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 2013 and began to teach American and African American literature in the same year. Her research focuses on critical race theory, slavery, African American Diaspora, democratic discourses in the antebellum America, and performance. She currently works on a book, Performing Bodies and Performative Texts: The Bodily Culture of the Antebellum United States and Fleshy Writing. This project explores the reciprocal relations between black and white Americans as both performers and observers through abolitionist activism and its written texts in the antebellum United States.
Undergraduate Poster Session Presenters and Advisors:
Monica Lindsay is a junior English and Sociology major from the Bronx, NY. Along with being an undergraduate researcher with the Colored Conventions Project, Monica is the Co-President of Sisters on the Move a registered student organization dedicated to mentorship and health programing for minority female students in both the collegiate and high school levels. She is also a First Year Seminar Peer Mentor and an Each One Reach One Mentor at the University of Delaware where she helps first year students and first generation students transition into college. Monica hopes to attend law school after undergrad with the hopes of opening up her own not-for-profit organization dedicated to legal education and legal access.
Nathan Nikolic is an undergraduate student studying English at the University of Delaware. He became interested in the Colored Conventions Project while taking a class on 19th-century African American literature. He works mostly with archival research to assist in table-making and mapping. After graduation, Nathan is going to teach English in Ecuador for a year before pursuing a PhD in comparative literature.
Heather Sinkinson is a nursing student and Pennsylvania State University. Next year I will transfer to Thomas Jefferson University to complete my major via their Prelicensure BSN program. In addition to being a full-time student, I work at my school as a laboratory intern. In my free time I enjoy volunteering at Springfield Hospital’s Emergency Room and at Widener School of Nursing Clinic at City Team in Chester as well as spending quality time with my friends and family.
Haleigh Swansen is a sophomore English major at Penn State Brandywine. She is also a Schreyer Honors Scholar and serves as the vice president of Nittany Christian Fellowship on her campus. Although many potential careers interest her, Haleigh is currently most intrigued by the disciplines of creative writing, editing, and advertising. She is also an archeology and history enthusiast, although she does not foresee a personal career in either of those fields. Haleigh became involved in the Colored Conventions project through an African American Literature course last spring. She considers it one of her favorite undergraduate class projects to date.
Caleb Trotter is enrolled in the University of Delaware, and is currently a Sophomore Visual Communications major with a minor in Interactive Media. He is working with the Colored Conventions Project as an undergraduate researcher by transcribing the data found within the convention minutes into visual charts and graphs. The charts and graphs that he creates bring context and meaning reflecting the lives of Colored inhabitants in the 19th century.
Additional Symposium Participants:
Kimberly Blockett, Ph.D., is associate professor of English Department at Penn State Brandywine where she enjoys teaching literary theory, African American literature, American studies, and civic and community engagement courses. She recently completed research fellowships with the Smithsonian Institute and the Ford Foundation to work on her book in progress, Race, Religion, and Rebellion in the 1800s. She is also working on an edited volume on 19th-century evangelist, Zilpha Elaw. A Philadelphia resident since 1999, she enjoys exploring the city and surrounding areas and feels very privileged to live in a place so rich in American and African American history. As a national teaching partner with CCP, she is coordinating part of the student research poster sessions that will be featured during the symposium.
A. Sheree Brown, Ph.D., is the Head Curator at the Delaware Historical Society’s Center for African American Heritage. She holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan and an M.A. from Tufts University in History and Museum Studies. Her research interests include the early modern Atlantic, eighteenth-and nineteenth-century African American history, and material culture studies.