TEACHING: Baucom and DuBois Course Site for “The Black Atlantic”

“Festival of Our Lady of the Rosary, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ca. 1770s,” from “The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas” [Click]

Duke University students are writing the “Black Atlantic” online courtesy of a course taught by Ian Baucom and Laurent DuBois.

From the syllabus:

“This seminar, open to advanced undergraduate students and graduate students in all disciplines, explores the history and literature of what has come to be known as “The Black Atlantic.” Our goal will be to think through the histories of slavery and emancipation in this Atlantic world and the way they have shaped our politics and culture. Our reading will range widely, including works of history and theory as well as poetry and novels. But we will also explore how visual art, music, and various types of performance condense, transmit, and examine this history. Students in the class will be invited to participate in the “Digital Black Atlantic Project,” a collaboration between Duke, Columbia, and Harvard, which will be exploring innovative ways to use Digital Media to showcase and present scholarship, literature, and artistic production around the theme of the Black Atlantic.”

Students blog reflections over the course of the semester. Posts to date include:

Alisha Hines – Jay Z’s Oceans: Cultural Production, Historical Imaginaries, and Collective Identity

Sasha Panaram – “Ship Ahoy”: The Sounds of Slavery

David Romine – Memorials, Memory, and History in the Black Atlantic

Read more on the course, explore the site, and find the syllabus here: About « The Black Atlantic.

BOOK: Carretta on Phillis Wheatley

Wheatley Cover

Vincent Carretta. Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.

via University of Georgia Press:

“With Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), Phillis Wheatley (1753?–1784) became the first English-speaking person of African descent to publish a book and only the second woman—of any race or background— to do so in America. Written in Boston while she was just a teenager, and when she was still a slave, Wheatley’s work was an international sensation. In Phillis Wheatley, Vincent Carretta offers the first full-length biography of a figure whose origins and later life have remained shadowy despite her iconic status.

A scholar with extensive knowledge of transatlantic literature and history, Carretta uncovers new details about Wheatley’s origins, her upbringing, and how she gained freedom. Carretta solves the mystery of John Peters, correcting the record of when he and Wheatley married and revealing what became of him after her death. Assessing Wheatley’s entire body of work, Carretta discusses the likely role she played in the production, market­ing, and distribution of her writing. Wheatley developed a remarkable transatlantic network that transcended racial, class, political, religious, and geographical boundaries. Carretta reconstructs that network and sheds new light on her religious and political identities. In the course of his research he discovered the earliest poem attributable to Wheatley and has included it and other unpublished poems in the biography.

Carretta relocates Wheatley from the margins to the center of her eighteenth-century transatlantic world, revealing the fascinating life of a woman who rose from the indignity of enslavement to earn wide recognition, only to die in obscurity a few years later.”

ARTICLE: Sanborn on Plagiarism in Clotel

Clotel Frontpiece

Geoffrey Sanborn. “‘People Will Pay to Hear the Drama’: Plagiarism in Clotel.” African American Review 45, no. 1 (2012): 65–82.

Excerpt:

It is no secret that William Wells Brown did not write everything that appears under his name in Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter, the first published novel by an African American. Since 1969, when William Edward Farrison published an edition of Clotel with extensive notes on Brown’s sources, scholars have known that Brown lifted passages from Lydia Maria Child’s “The Quadroons,” John Reilly Beard’s The Life of Touissant L’Ouverture, Bishop William Meade’s Sermons Addressed to Masters and Servants, and Theodore Weld’s Slavery As It Is. Almost all of chapters four and eight and part of chapter twenty-three are taken from “The Quadroons”; the opening of chapter twenty-three and ten sentences in chapter twenty-four are taken from The Life of Touissant L’Ouverture; eight paragraphs in chapter six are taken from Meade’s collection; and four sentences from Weld’s introduction appear in chapter sixteen. Elsewhere, Farrison shows, Brown recycles some of his own previously published material, reprints a poem by Grace Greenwood without identifying her as the author, and incorporates newspaper articles without citing their actual sources.1 In the latter cases, Brown does not actually represent the work of another writer as his own; at most, he simply leaves open the possibility that he composed the passages. The same is true of several similar cases identified by Robert S. Levine in his 2000 edition of Clotel.2 In a 2005 online edition of the novel, however, Christopher Mulvey reported the discovery of six more plagiarized passages, four of which are voiced by Georgiana Carlton, the most lecture-prone character in the novel.3 That brought the total amount of the plagiarism in Clotel to eighteen passages, or 4,781 words, derived from eight different sources….

Read the rest.

 

Image Credit: “THE DEATH OF CLOTEL,” [Frontispiece Image] via DocSouth

ARTICLE: McCaskill on William and Ellen Craft’s ‘Partnership’

Note from Ira Aldridge to Ellen Craft

Barbara McCaskill. “The Profits and the Perils of Partnership in the ‘Thrilling’ Saga of William and Ellen Craft.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 38, no. 1 (March 1, 2013): 76–97.

Excerpt:

In October 1937, the historian Carter Godwin Woodson (1875–1950) launched the inaugural issue of the Negro History Bulletin. A teacher of social science and language in the secondary schools of the District of Columbia, Woodson dedicated his career to disseminating knowledge, correcting myths, and presenting accurate analyses of the roles of African Americans in US history. In 1915, he founded the progenitor of today’s Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH), and in February 1926, he initiated Negro History Week, now a month-long celebration (Hine 405-8). His Negro History Bulletin, a monthly publication for students and educators, inserted the voices of black scholars and critics into Jim Crow America’s segregated African American classrooms (Goggin 1-65). The Bulletin debuted with a front page featuring “The Thrilling Escape of William and Ellen Craft,” about the couple’s journey from slavery in Georgia to freedom in New England, which is framed by a triptych of woodcuts by the African American artist Lois Mailou Jones (1905–1998) (“Thrilling” 1, 5). Almost ninety years had passed since the couple’s feisty 1848 flight from Macon, Georgia, when the light-skinned Ellen Craft (1826–1891) had attired herself as a white, Southern, slaveholding gentleman. She and her dark-skinned husband William (1824–1900),1 pretending to be her slave, had slipped out from under what they called captivity’s “iron heel of despotism” (Craft and Craft 10), hiding in plain sight among white, Southern, slaveholding travelers on trains, carriages, and steamers conveying them North. “Persons still living,” wrote this issue of the Bulletin, “speak of the benefits they received from coming under the influence of William and Ellen Craft” (“Thrilling” 5).

Uncertain whether they would ever return to America, the Crafts spent almost twenty years in transatlantic exile—obtaining an education, making a living, nurturing five children, frantically fund-raising to purchase …

Chinua Achebe: 1930-2013

Chinua Achebe

In Depth Africa reports the death of Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe:

“Foremost novelist, Prof Chinua Achebe, is dead. He was 82.

Reporters  learnt he died last night in a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

A source close to the family said the professor had been ill for a while and was hospitalised in an undisclosed hospital in Boston.

The source declined to provide further details, saying the family will issue a statement on the development later today.

Contacted, spokesperson for Brown University, where Mr. Achebe worked until he took ill, Darlene Trewcrist, is yet to respond to our enquiries on the professor’s condition.

Until his death, Prof Achebe was the David and Marianna Fisher University Professor and Professor of Africana Studies at Brown.

Below is how the university profiled him on its website.

“Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe is known the world over for having played a seminal role in the founding and development of African literature. He continues to be considered among the most significant world writers. He is most well known for the groundbreaking 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, a novel still considered to be required reading the world over. It has sold over twelve million copies and has been translated into more than fifty languages.

“Achebe’s global significance lies not only in his talent and recognition as a writer, but also as a critical thinker and essayist who has written extensively on questions of the role of culture in Africa and the social and political significance of aesthetics and analysis of the postcolonial state in Africa. He is renowned, for example, for “An Image of Africa,” his trenchant and famous critique of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Today, this critique is recognized as one of the most generative interventions on Conrad; and one that opened the social study of literary texts, particularly the impact of power relations on 20th century literary imagination…”

The Guardian reports:

“Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist seen by millions as the father of African literature, has died at the age of 82.

Continue reading

BOOK: Sharpe on the Monstrous Intimacies of Slavery

Christina Sharpe, Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects. Duke University Press Books, 2010.

Description from Duke University Press:

“Arguing that the fundamental, familiar, sexual violence of slavery and racialized subjugation have continued to shape black and white subjectivities into the present, Christina Sharpe interprets African diasporic and Black Atlantic visual and literary texts that address those “monstrous intimacies” and their repetition as constitutive of post-slavery subjectivity. Her illuminating readings juxtapose Frederick Douglass’s narrative of witnessing the brutal beating of his Aunt Hester with Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s declaration of freedom in Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, as well as the “generational genital fantasies” depicted in Gayl Jones’s novel Corregidora with a firsthand account of such “monstrous intimacies” in the journals of an antebellum South Carolina senator, slaveholder, and vocal critic of miscegenation. Sharpe explores the South African–born writer Bessie Head’s novel Maru—about race, power, and liberation in Botswana—in light of the history of the KhoiSan woman Saartje Baartman, who was displayed in Europe as the “Hottentot Venus” in the nineteenth century. Reading Isaac Julien’s film The Attendant, Sharpe takes up issues of representation, slavery, and the sadomasochism of everyday black life. Her powerful meditation on intimacy, subjection, and subjectivity culminates in an analysis of Kara Walker’s black silhouettes, and the critiques leveled against both the silhouettes and the artist.”

 

BOOK: Chakkalakal on Slave Marriage in the 19th Century

Negro Life in the South, Eastman Johnson, 1859, oil on canvas. Source: New York Historical Society

Tess Chakkalakal. Novel Bondage: Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.
From the publisher’s website:

Filling a long-standing gap in our knowledge about slave-marriage, Novel Bondage unravels the interconnections between marriage, slavery, and freedom through renewed readings of canonical nineteenth-century novels and short stories by black and white authors. Tess Chakkalakal expertly mines antislavery and post–Civil War fiction to extract literary representations of slave-marriage, revealing how these texts and their public responses took aim not only at the horrors of slavery but also at the legal conventions of marriage.

Situating close readings of fiction alongside archival material concerning the actual marriages of authors such as Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, William Wells Brown, and Frank J. Webb, Chakkalakal examines how these early novels established literary conventions for describing the domestic lives of American slaves in describing their aspirations for personal and civic freedom. Exploring this theme in post–Civil War works by Frances E. W. Harper and Charles Chesnutt, she further reveals how the slave-marriage plot served as a fictional model for reforming marriage laws.

As nonlegal unions, slave-marriages departed in crucial ways from the prevailing definition of marriage, and Chakkalakal reveals how these highly unconventional unions constituted an aesthetic and affective bond that challenged the legal definition of marriage in nineteenth-century America. Novel Bondage invites readers to rethink the “marital work” of nineteenth-century fiction and the historical role it played in shaping our understanding of the literary and political meaning of marriage, then and now.

BOOK: Dobie on Images of Slavery in 18c French Culture

Madeleine Dobie. Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

“In Trading Places, Madeleine Dobie explores the place of the colonial world in the culture of the French Enlightenment. She shows that until a turning point in the late 1760s questions of colonization and slavery occupied a very marginal position in literature, philosophy, and material and visual culture. In an exploration of the causes and modalities of this silence, Dobie traces the displacement of colonial questions onto two more familiar—and less ethically challenging—aspects of Enlightenment thought: exoticization of the Orient and fascination with indigenous Amerindian cultures.

Expanding the critical analysis of the cultural imprint of colonization to encompass commodities as well as texts, Dobie considers how tropical raw materials were integrated into French material culture. In an original exploration of the textile and furniture industries Dobie considers consumer goods both as sites of representation and as vestiges of the labor of the enslaved. Turning to the closing decades of the eighteenth century, Dobie considers how silence evolved into discourse. She argues that sustained examination of the colonial order was made possible by the rise of economic liberalism, which attacked the prevailing mercantilist doctrine and formulated new perspectives on agriculture, labor (including slavery), commerce, and global markets. Questioning recent accounts of late Enlightenment “anticolonialism,” she shows that late eighteenth-century French philosophers opposed slavery while advocating the expansion of a “liberalized” colonial order. Innovative and interdisciplinary, Trading Places combines literary and historical analysis with new research into political economy and material culture.”

ESSAY: Gates and Ellis on Harriet Wilson, 19th Century Novelist and Spiritualist

Quite a late posting.  Many apologies on the hiatus.  ~JMJOHNSO

For more on Wilson as an entrepreneur see Gabrielle Foreman and Katherine Flynn’s 2009 Boston Globe piece here.

Gates, Henry Louis, and R. J. Ellis. “Harriet Wilson’s Sunday School.” TheRoot.com, January 10, 2011, sec. Views. http://www.theroot.com/views/harriet-wilson-s-sunday-school.

Excerpt:

As Gabrielle Foreman and Kathy Flynn have shown, between 1857 and 1861 Wilson became an enterprising producer and marketer of “Mrs. H.E. Wilson’s Hair Dressing,” a hair “regenerator,” which claimed to restore graying hair to its original color and was sold in smart green glass bottles that were advertised widely in newspapers throughout New England, New York and New Jersey, including theNew York Times.

But far more important than this curious and brief interlude in her long career, Wilson (who often called herself “Hattie”) also became a well-known and somewhat controversial “spirit guide” in Boston’s popular Spiritualist movement, as Foreman detected. According to our research, this new chapter in Wilson’s career began as early as 1867, just after the end of the Civil War.

Even here, Wilson’s entrepreneurial skills manifested themselves: We have discovered that, in addition to playing a leading role in fostering amateur dramatics among the Spiritualists, she founded her own school. And this venture would prove to be perhaps her most controversial project of all.

Early in 1883, Wilson announced the opening of a new Sunday school for the children of “the liberal minded” in the “Ladies Aid Parlors” in Boston. Though the very first black woman to teach in a white public school in that city, Elizabeth Smith, had begun teaching just a decade earlier, in 1872 a black woman teaching white children in a private school such as Wilson’s was still quite extraordinary, to say the least.

Spiritualists believed that certain individuals — “mediums” — possessed the power to communicate with those who had passed away but who still, in spirit form, moved among the living, overlooking their lives, and were able to be called upon to provide guidance by way of verbal communication through the medium, or even by assuming visible material forms. These communications could be dramatic and even disconcerting (the mediums, of course, maintained that they could not control the free spirits), so generally speaking, Spiritualists did not go into trances in their children’s lyceums.

But Wilson decided that this was an unnecessary precaution. To signify the difference between her school and others, she dropped the word “lyceum” (as Spiritualist schools were generally known) and named hers the “First Spiritual Progressive School.” And true to her claim, Wilson’s school was avowedly “progressive” and featured some quite radical ideas.

Read the rest @ TheRoot.com

Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea Tackles Women, Slavery in Haiti, New Orleans

Her latest novel, “Island Beneath the Sea,” which Allende began four years ago on Jan. 8, tells the story of Zarité, a slave and concubine in Haiti at the turn of the 19th century just before the island’s successful slave rebellion.

An orphan who is bought by a French plantation owner, Zarité works for the master as a housekeeper, suffering repeated rapes that produce three children, all who are eventually taken from her.

Zarité maneuvers among the worlds of the slaves, the whites and the spirit world of voodoo to ultimately orchestrate her own escape during the slave revolt, when the half million slaves murdered Napoleon’s troops and burned down the plantations, making Haiti the first free nation of former slaves in the world.”

Zarité is the extreme case of all the women I have written about combined,” Allende said. “She was born strong, yet she has to overcome incredible obstacles just to be included in her own life – to have a say in how many children she has, where she lives, who she loves and how she makes her living.”

via SFGate.