Teaching the Colored Conventions

Seeking Records Classroom Module

The Colored Conventions movement generated a rich and varied documentary record—from the minutes of the proceedings themselves and the coverage they received in newspapers, to the vigorous debates their participants engaged in and the legislative petitions they created to advocate for Black rights. The process of bringing the long and dynamic history of the Colored Conventions to digital life is one of archival recovery and innovative partnership. The Seeking Records Classroom Module invites participating faculty and students to join us in the exciting process of locating historical documents related to the Colored Conventions and presenting them to the public for the very first time.

How to Become a Teaching Partner

After several years of classroom implementation, we are taking the 2019-2020 school year to revamp the Seeking Records Classroom Module. We look forward to presenting the new and improved module in the near future. Reach us at info@coloredconventions.org if you have any questions about our classroom module.

Research Resources and Classroom Modules 

As part of our ongoing effort to bring the buried history of nineteenth-century Black organizing to digital life, the Colored Conventions Project team has developed a range of research-based teaching materials to engage faculty, students, and the general public in the rich documentary record of the Colored Conventions movement. CCP scholars and librarians have curated sample writing assignments, research guides, educational resources, and an innovative classroom teaching module, all designed to encourage investigation into the themes and debates that arose for the Black men and women who organized, attended, and supported the Colored Conventions. Reach us at ColoredConventions@udel.edu to learn more about our teaching materials and classroom module.

North American Teaching Partners

Kate Adams
Tulane University

Kate Adams PhotoKate Adams is associate professor of English and Kimmerling Chair in Women’s Literature at Tulane University. She is the author of Owning Up: Privacy, Property, and Belonging in US Women’s Life Writing (Oxford 2009), editor of US Women Writing Race a special issue of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature (2009), and co-editor of Recovering Alice Dunbar-Nelson for the Twenty-First Century, a special issue of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers (2016). Her essays on race and gender in US culture have appeared in edited collections and journals including ESQ, Arizona Quarterly, and Hypatia. Currently she is at work on a new book project, Reconstructing Value: Cotton Culture and Blackness after Emancipation, that looks at how black writers reimagined racial capitalism after slavery, and a public-facing digital humanities project, This Beautiful Sisterhood of Books, based on the Women’s Literary Department from the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair.

M. Christine Anderson
Xavier University

Photo of Christine AndersonM. Christine Anderson, Ph.D., is an associate professor of History and co-director of the Public History program at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her teaching and research focus on Black and women’s history. She has published on these topics in the Journal of Women’s History, Humanity and Society, and Ohio History. She is currently preparing the journals of Sister Justina Segale, founder of a Catholic, Italian settlement house, for digitization as an online exhibit by the American Catholic Research Center and University Archives of The Catholic University of America. She has been a Fulbright Roving Scholar in American Studies in Norway and has recently received Xavier University’s Conway Faculty Fellowship in Jesuit Education for a project on participatory social history discussions of migration and immigration.

Kimberly Blockett
Penn State Brandywine

Photo of Kimberly Blockett, Ph.DKimberly 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. She was the first CCP National Teaching Partner to create a semester-long Colored Conventions class.

RJ Boutelle
Florida Atlantic University

Photo of RJ BoutelleRJ Boutelle is an assistant professor of English at Florida Atlantic University, where his research and teaching focuses on transnational approaches to nineteenth-century USAmerican, African American, and Caribbean literature. His current book project, The Race for America: Emigration and the Black Borderlands of Manifest Destiny, explores brings Black nationalism into conversation with USAmerican imperialism to examine how Afro USAmerican writer-activists imagined geopolitical projects as alternatives to Manifest Destiny, projects rooted in their understandings of race, diaspora, and the USA’s expansionist ambitions. His work has appeared in Atlantic Studies and MELUS, and he has works forthcoming in American Literature and African American Literature in Transition, 1880-1900 (Cambridge UP), ed. Barbara McCaskill and Caroline Gebhard.

Mary Chapman
University of British Columbia

Mary Chapmanis Professor of English at University of British Columbia. She is the author of Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism(Oxford 2014); editor of Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s University Press 2016); and co-editor with Angela Mills of Treacherous Texts: US Suffrage Literature 1846-1946 (Rutgers UP, 2011); and co-editor with Glenn Hendler of Sentimental Men: Masculinity and the Politics of Affect in American Culture (U California P 1999).

Anna Mae Duane
University of Connecticut

photo Anna Mae Duane, Ph.D.Anna Mae Duane, Ph.D.is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut, where she teaches classes in African American literature, Disability Studies, Childhood Studies, and early American literature. She is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race and the Making of the Child Victim (2010); and the editor of The Children’s Table: Childhood Studies and the Humanities (2013) and Child Slavery Before and After Emancipation (2017). She currently co-edits Common-place, the Interactive Journal of Early American Life. Her book-in-progress, Strange Place Blues, traces the lives of two of the most compelling characters in the Colored Conventions archives: Dr. James McCune Smith (the first African American to earn an M.D.) and Henry Highland Garnet (the first African American minister to address the House of Representatives). She is at work on the edited collection, Who Writes for Black Children?: African American Children’s Literature Before 1900, co-edited with Kate Capshaw. Her essays have appeared in American Literature, the Cambridge History of the American Novel, the African American Review and Studies in American Fiction.

Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Rutgers University

Photo of Armstrong DunbarErica Armstrong Dunbar, Ph.D., author of Never Caught: Ona Judge Staines, The President’s Runaway Slave Woman is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. She has recently participated in several documentaries, including “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and “The Abolitionists,” an American Experience production on PBS. In 2011, Professor Dunbar was appointed the first director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. She has been the recipient of Ford, Mellon, and SSRC fellowships and most recently has been named an Organization of American Historians Distinguished Lecturer. Her first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University Press in 2008. She was previously the Blue and Gold Professor of Africana Studies and the Department of History at the University of Delaware.

Benjamin Fagan
Auburn University

Photo Benjamin FaganBenjamin Fagan is an assistant professor of English at Auburn University, where he teaches courses on early African American literature. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in African American ReviewLegacyAmerican Periodicals, and Comparative American Studies. His first book, The Black Newspaper and the Chosen Nation, examines how the institutional and material forms of black newspapers helped shape ideas of black chosenness in the decades before the Civil War. He is also a member of the Black Press Research Collective, a group of scholars dedicated to making primary and secondary materials related to black newspapers more widely accessible. Towards that end, he is currently collaborating with members of the collective on a born-digital book that explores the place of transnational literature in the early black press. (Photo by Martha Stewart)

Sharla M. Fett
Occidental College

Photo of Sharla M FettSharla M. Fett is an Associate Professor of History and affiliated faculty with American Studies at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Her teaching and research interests center on nineteenth-century African American history, Atlantic World slavery, the antebellum U.S. South, and race, gender & health. She is the author of the prize-winning book Working Cures: Healing, Health and Power on Southern Slave Plantations (University of North Carolina Press, 2002). She has also published in the journal Slavery and Abolition (2010) and has essays in New Studies in the History of American Slavery, edited by Stephanie Camp and Edward Baptist (2006) and Paths of the Atlantic Slave Trade, edited by Ana Lucia Araujo (2010). She is finishing a book entitled Recaptured: African Shipmates in the Aftermath of the Nineteenth-Century Illegal Slave Trade. This study explores the racial politics of U.S. transatlantic slave trade suppression and the social crisis of enslaved Africans seized from illegal slavers by the U.S. navy. She taught a semester-long Colored Conventions class in Spring, 2016. She curated and her class produced two digital exhibits including “Equality Before the Law: California Black Convention Activism, 1855-65.”

Charlie Gleek
Florida Atlantic University

Photo of Charlie GleekCharlie Gleek is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University, where his research and teaching explores questions at intersections of African American and Africana Literature and Book History and Print Culture. His dissertation project examines the cultural circuits of materials produced by Black activist printers, especially artist’s books, broadsides, pamphlets, and other printed objects. Charlie teaches undergraduate courses, including “Writing History,” in which students explore the Colored Conventions movement as part of their study of nineteenth-century African American activism, producing scrapbooks and artist’s books that document and remix Convention materials, delegate biographies, and news about the Conventions movement. Charlie’s recent published work appears in Penumbra (2018), i.e.: inquiry in education (2015), and he is a co-author of Global Politics (Pearson Education, 2016).

Laura Helton
University of Delaware

Photo of Laura Helton, English.Laura Helton, Ph.D.,is an assistant professor of English at the University of Delaware, where she teaches courses on 19th- and 20th-century African American literature, print and material culture, and public humanities. In her research and teaching, she draws on her earlier career as an archivist working with collections that document the civil rights era, women’s movements, and American radicalism. In Fall 2017, students in her African American Literature Survey course will search for calls and memorials from national conventions in the 1860s and 1870s. She is co-editor of a special issue of Social Text on “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive” (December 2015). Her current book project, Collecting and Collectivity: Black Archival Publics, 1900-1950, examines the emergence of African American archives and libraries to show how historical recuperation shaped forms of racial imagination in the early twentieth century. As the book notes, these twentieth-century collecting projects trace their roots to earlier calls to build black archives, including at the 1853 National Convention of the Free People of Color in Rochester, New York.

Josh Honn
Northwestern University

Josh Honn, is faculty member in the English Department and Digital Humanities Librarian at Northwestern University Library. He collaborates with faculty and students on a range of digital research and pedagogy projects. His current research and community-engaged project work includes “How Tall a Shadow You Can Make: Ross D. Brown, Historical Memory, and Archive of Care,” and the Native American Educational Services Digital Library Project.

Kate Masur
Northwestern University

Profile photo of KateKate Masur, is an Associate Professor in the History Department at Northwestern University. Her current work examines the fight for racial equality in the antebellum North and its impact on federal policy during the Civil War and Reconstruction. She is the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C. (2010), editor of John E. Washington’s They Knew Lincoln, and co-editor, with Gregory P. Downs, of The World the Civil War Made (2015). She has also done extensive public history work on the era of Reconstruction.

Monica L. Mercado
Colgate University

Photo of Monica L MercadoMonica L. Mercado, is an assistant professor of History at Colgate University, affiliated with Women’s Studies and Museum Studies. She teaches courses on U.S. women’s, gender, and sexuality history, public history, and New York State history. Her teaching and research draws on print, visual, and material culture studies, as she has spent much of her professional life in museums and archives, gaining experience with object-based pedagogies and collaborating with libraries and community organizations. Her current book project, The Young Catholic: Girlhood and the Making of American Catholicism grows out of her dissertation research and postdoctoral fellowship directing The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education at Bryn Mawr College. From 2006-2008, she was a researcher on the Mellon Foundation-funded project “Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives.”

Joycelyn Moody
University of Texas

Photo of Joycelyn Moody, Ph.DJoycelyn Moody, Ph.D., is the Sue E. Denman Distinguished Chair in American Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she teaches courses on African American literature. She served as Editor-in-Chief of African American Review from Fall 2004 through Spring 2008. She has taught at several institutions, including the University of Washington, Saint Louis University, Hamilton College, and the Harvard School of Divinity. Besides articles and chapters, her publications include Sentimental Confessions: Spiritual Narratives of Nineteenth-Century African American Women and Course Guide for The Norton Anthology of African American Literature 2nd ed. Dr. Moody was the first CCP National Teaching Partner.

Kristin Moriah
Queen's University

Photo of Kristin MoriahKristin Moriah is an Assistant Professor of African American Literary Studies in the English Department at Queen’s University. Her work can be found in American Quarterly, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, Theater Journal, and Understanding Blackness Through Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). She is the editor of Black Writers and the Left (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2013) and the co-editor of Adrienne Rich: Teaching at CUNY, 1968-1974 (Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative, 2014). Her research has been funded through grants from the Social Science and Humanities Council of Canada, the Freie Universität Berlin and the CUNY Graduate Center’s Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC). In spring 2015 Moriah was a Scholar-in-Residence at the NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Lynnette Young Overby
University of Delaware

Photo of Lynnette Young Overby, Ph.D.Lynnette Young Overby, Ph.D. is Deputy Director of the University of Delaware (UD) Community Engagement Initiative and a Professor of Theatre and Dance. Formerly she served as founding Faculty Director of the UD Office of Undergraduate Research & Experiential Learning. She is the author, coauthor or co-editor of 40+ publications including twelve books and the 2016 Human Kinetics publication – Public Scholarship in Dance. Her honors include the 2004 Leadership Award from the National Dance Education Organization. Dr. Overby is a Board member of dance and the Child international. She is currently collaborating with literary historian P. Gabrielle Foreman and a host of artists and scholars on a series of long term “Performing African American History” arts-based research projects. In 2017-2018, her students brought Black women’s participation in the Convention movement to life in performance and highlighted the work of Frances Harper and Mary Ann Shadd Cary who gave speeches, recited poetry and relayed the messages conveyed during the convention to the wider society as educators, editors, and authors.

Jean Pfaelzer
University of Delaware

Photo of Jean Pfaelzer, Ph.D.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 RealismShe 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,  etc. and she was named Asian American Hero by Asian Librarians Association. 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. She is contributing a chapter on California conventions and their fight for the right to testify in the forthcoming edited collection based on the 2014 CCP hosted symposium.

Selena Sanderfer
Western Kentucky University

Photo of Selena Sanderfer, Ph.D. 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 QuarterlyThe 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.

Leslie A. Schwalm
University of Iowa

Leslie A. Schwalm is Professor of History and chair of the Department of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa.   She is the author of A Hard Fight For We: Women’s Transition from Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina (1997) and Emancipation’s Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest (2009).  Her essays on gender, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as race and the history of medicine, have appeared in edited collections and journals such as Slavery & Abolition, the Journal of the Civil War Era, the Journal of Women’s History, the Journal of Law, Medicine, & EthicsAmerican Nineteenth Century History and Civil War History.  In 2016 she collaborated with Playwright Margot Connelly on “Cross-Examined,” an original play based on the history of African American women in Iowa’s nineteenth-century civil rights movement, which was presented across Iowa in 2016-1028.   Her current book explores the expansion of racialized medicine and science among northern whites during and after the Civil War.  She is the co-director of the Iowa CCP Satellite project.

Matthew Taylor
Northwestern University

Headshot of MatthewMatthew Taylor is Director of Northwestern University’s Media and Design Studio where he oversees the unit’s technology portfolio and strategy, heads technological development of humanities research projects, and offers consultation and training to faculty and students. With added expertise in multi-lingual computing, he also specializes in the creation of online pedagogy and courseware, particularly for language learning.

Toniesha L. Taylor
Texas Southern University

Photo of Toniesha TaylorToniesha L. Taylor is the Department Chair of the Communications Arts and Sciences Department in the School of Communication at Texas Southern University. Her research interests are in African American Studies, Religion, Intercultural Communication, Gender Communication and Digital Humanities. Her recent research and conference presentations include discussions on womanist rhetoric as method and theory; practical social justice pedagogy for faculty and students; and digital humanities methods implications for activist recovery projects. Her recent publications include “Saving Sound, Sounding Black and Voicing America: John Lomax and the Creation of the “American Voice”” in Sounding Out!: The Sound Studies Blog, and a co-authored essay with Amy E. Earhart titled “Pedagogies of Race: Digital Humanities in the Age of Ferguson” in Debates in Digital Humanities. Toniesha contributed “Reflections on SandraBland on the 3rd Anniversary of Her Death to Black PerspectivesOnline Roundtable on Sandra Bland. Dr. Taylor’s recent digital humanities projects include The Prairie View Women’s Oral History Project which is designed to collect, preserve, curate and display the oral histories of women who have had at least a thirty year relationship to Prairie View A&M University. She joined as a CCP National Teaching Partner in 2018.

Shirley Moody-Turner
Pennsylvania State University

Photo of Shirley Moody-Turner Shirley Moody-Turner is an associate professor of English and African American Studies at Pennsylvania State University and a specialist in turn of the twentieth-century African American literary history. She teaches courses in African American literature, black print cultures, critical race studies, and folklore studies. Her first book, Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation tells the story of how folklore became a lynchpin in US debates over Jim Crow segregation, while her current book, Privately Printed: Anna Julia Cooper and the Gender Politics of Black Publishing, examines the intersecting dynamics of race and gender to make visible a “shadow tradition” of black women’s writing that exceeded conventional publishing protocols. She has published numerous articles and essays in these areas, and most recently signed on as volume editor for African American Literature in Transition 1900-1910(Cambridge University Press). She and her students joins the CCP team as a National Teaching Partner interested, especially, in the role of the National Association of Colored Women and black women’s participation in convention culture.

Sarah Wasserman
University of Delaware

Sarah Wasserman, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of English at the University of Delaware, where she teaches courses on 20th and 21st century American literature, material culture studies, and digital humanities. Her work appears in Contemporary Literature, Modern Fiction Studies, and The Journal of American Studies. She is the co-editor of a volume called Cultures of Obsolescence: History, Materiality, and the Digital Age, which appeared with Palgrave Macmillan in 2015. Her current book project, The Death of Things: Ephemera in America, examines literary representations of ephemeral objects in American culture from the beginning of the twentieth century until today. Her Spring, 2016 class was the first to research and collect convention “calls,” the announcements placed in newspapers to advertise upcoming conventions.

Ivy Wilson
Northwestern University

Photo of Ivy Wilson, Ph.D.Ivy Wilson, Ph.D., an associate professor at Northwestern University, teaches courses on the comparative literatures of the black diaspora and U.S. literary studies with a particular emphasis on African American culture. His book Specters of Democracy: Blackness and the Aesthetics of Nationalism interrogates how the figurations and tropes of blackness were used to produce the social equations that regulated the cultural meanings of U.S. citizenship and traces how African American intellectuals manipulated the field of aesthetics as a means to enter into political discourse about the forms of subjectivity and national belonging. Along with recent articles in ESQArizona Quarterly, and PMLA, his other work in U.S. literary studies includes two forthcoming edited books on the nineteenth-century poets James Monroe Whitfield and Albery Allson Whitman. His current research interests focus on the solubility of nationalism in relationship to theories of the diaspora, global economies of culture, and circuits of the super-national and sub-national.

Rafia Zafar
Washington University

Photo of Rafia ZafarRafia Zafar is Professor of English and African & African American Studies and the Program in American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis; she also currently serves as faculty director of the university’s Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program. Her major publications include God Made Man, Man Made the Slave (co-editor); Harriet Jacobs and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (co-editor); We Wear the Mask: African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870 and the two-volume edition of Harlem Renaissance Novels: The Library of America Collection. Her study of African American authorship and food ways, Recipes for Respect, will appear in 2018. With Laura Helton, she will co-edit a special issue of African American Review on Arturo Schomburg. She partners with the Colored Conventions project in her spring 2018 class, “Rebels, Sheroes and Race Men.”

The Colored Conventions Project, Douglass Day and the Black Women's Organizing Archive are flagship projects of the Center for Black Digital Research, #DigBlk, at Penn State University.

The Colored Conventions Project appreciates the support of:


The Colored Conventions Project was launched & cultivated at the University of Delaware from 2012-2020.