Lecture by visiting scholar Mary Freeman

Mary FreemanMary Freeman will present Letter Writing and Politics in the Campaign against Slavery on October 29 at noon in the Special Collections Research Center on the sixth floor of Bird Library. Her presentation is part of the CNY Humanities Corridor Visiting Scholars Brownbag series.

Freeman’s doctoral research focuses on letter writing as a form of political action in the decades leading up to the Civil War. For people in the mid-nineteenth century United States, letter writing was more than simply a means of transmitting information from point A to point B. Letters were crucial venues for intimate discussion, self-reflection, and, in certain instances, political action. During this period, Americans of many different backgrounds joined a national collective in opposition to slavery. Letter writing provided a space for abolitionists to trade information, articulate their organizational vision, and, most importantly, to stake claims as participants in this national political collective.

The correspondence of prominent abolitionists like Gerrit Smith and Samuel May as well as the letters of lesser-known activists including members of the Post and Porter families of Rochester, New York equally shed light on the question of what opponents of slavery thought their letter writing could accomplish.

Mary Freeman is a doctoral candidate at Columbia University studying nineteenth-century U. S. history. She received her BA from Williams College. Her research interests include letter writing, the history of slavery and abolition, women’s history, and the American Civil War. She also works as a research assistant and processing intern at the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library and as a tour guide at the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Alexander Nemerov to lecture on Faulkner and Margaret Bourke-White

NemerovAlexander Nemerov, the Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University, will present the lecture “Lightness: In the Air with William Faulkner and Margaret Bourke-White” on Wednesday, October 1, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. in Peter Graham Scholarly Commons in Bird Library. He will also conduct a mini-seminar on Thursday, October 2, 2014 from 10:00 a.m.–noon in the Special Collections Research Center on the sixth floor of Bird Library. Both events are free and open to the public, but advanced registration is required for the mini-seminar. To register, contact Barbara Brooker at bbbrooke@syr.edu or at 315-443-9763.

Professor Nemerov will examine two great figures of the 1930s who do not seem to go together, the novelist William Faulkner and the photographer Margaret Bourke-White. Considering aerial moments in Faulkner’s novels Absalom, Absalom!, The Wild Palms, and Pylon, he will also speak of Bourke-White’s cult of heights, her dizzying vantages far above the streets of Manhattan.

A scholar of American art, Nemerov writes about the presence of art, the recollection of the past, and the importance of the humanities in our lives today. Committed to teaching the history of art more broadly, as well as topics in American visual culture—the history of American photography, for example—he is a noted writer and speaker on the arts. His most recent books are To Make a World: George Ault and 1940s America (2011), the catalog to the exhibition of the same title he curated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Acting in the Night: Macbeth and the Places of the Civil War (2010). His latest book, Wartime Kiss: Visions of the Moment in the 1940s, was published by Princeton University Press in 2012.

The Alexander Nemerov lecture is co-sponsored by the Syracuse Symposium™ in the SU Humanities Center.

CNY Humanities Corridor Visiting Scholars Brownbag Presentation

Jenn ThomasJenn Thomas (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
“Researching Nineteenth-Century Insane Asylum Landscapes of New York State”
Brownbag Presentation: September 5, 2014 / Noon / Tolley 304 / SU Humanities Center

Between 1843 and 1890 New York built state run insane asylums in Utica, Ovid, Binghamton, Poughkeepsie, Middletown, Buffalo, and Ogdensburg.  With the passage of the New York State Care Act of 1890, six more local asylums were brought into the state institutional fold, bringing the total to thirteen.  Most asylums required large amounts of acreage to treat hundreds of patients.  Land to farm, access to natural resources and picturesque settings were considered essential for treating the mentally unwell.  Moral treatment, the Quaker inspired psychiatric practice of the age, combined spiritual guidance, behavior modification, and labor activities to administer patient healing.  Regimented daily routines aimed to adjust mind, body and spirit back to a reasoned state.  Male patients cultivated crops, tended livestock, and constructed formal gardens, grounds and buildings.  Domestic tasks, like cleaning, sewing and laundry were done by women.  Patients participated in a variety of recreational activities including supervised strolls, carriage rides, theatrical performances, and sporting events.  Although asylum histories often focus on specific doctors, treatments, or exceptional circumstances, this project emphasizes how landscape-related activities reinforced expected normative behaviors, reflected contemporaneous landscape theories, as well as paralleled social and state concerns related to mental illness, gender, class, and race in New York.

Jenn Thomas is landscape architecture PhD candidate in the history/theory track at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign and was a 2013‐2014 graduate fellow at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from the University of Oregon and a Master of Landscape Architecture with a certificate in Historic Preservation from the University of Colorado Denver. Her master’s thesis (2009)—The Education of Jane Silverstein Ries at the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women, Groton, MA, 1928‐1932—explored gendered pedagogy in professional training of women landscape architects through Ries’s schoolwork.

CNY Humanities Corridor Visiting Scholars Brownbag Presentation

Richard Bell“The Blackest Market: Kidnapping, Slavery and Salvation”
Richard Bell (University of Maryland)

Brownbag Presentation: August 29, 2014 / Noon / Tolley 304 / SU Humanities Center

Long before Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) fixed the depiction of man-stealers in the American imagination, there was Patty Cannon (c. 1760-1829). A kidnapper, enslaver, and slave trader of unprecedented audacity and ambition, this Delaware woman died by her own hand in prison in 1829. Concluded decades before the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 brought the abduction of free black men and women to national attention, her repellent career offers a rare glimpse of slavery’s darkest secret: a black market underworld in which legally free people were kidnapped and traded as slaves; a reverse underground railroad of infamous repute in its day that has since been largely forgotten.

Situated at that pivotal moment during which sectional identities began to harden and racial and class politics came to consume the American imagination, Patty Cannon’s story provides a new means to probe some of the major themes in early national and antebellum historiography. Bridging the historiographical and geographic divide between North and South, Cannon’s repugnant exploits connect the rise of the market not only to organized antislavery activism, but also to the spread of industrial agriculture, western expansion, and the democratization of print culture. Hers is a story with national implications.

Richard Bell is Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. He received his PhD from Harvard University and his BA from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of We Shall Be No More: Suicide and Self-Government in the Newly United States (2012) and the co-editor of Buried Lives: Incarcerated in Early America (2012). He is currently at work upon a new book-length micro-history titled “The Blackest Market: Kidnapping, Slavery and Salvation.”

Slavery and Abolition, History of the Book, and Religion in African American History

Undergraduate students
Undergraduate Research Conference
April 14-17, 2014 / See Schedule Below / Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, Bird Library, 1st Floor

Please join us for this week-long conference featuring student research in the holdings of the Special Collections Research Center.

Students from Professor Joan Bryant’s courses Religion in African American History and Slavery and Abolition alongside students from Professor Patricia Roylance’s course History of the Book have spent the semester immersed in special collections, conducting individual research projects on items they have discovered in our holdings. Marking the culmination of a semester of intensive work, this conference offers students the opportunity to present their research in a public forum.

The conference is open to the public. Refreshments generously provided by the College of Arts and Sciences.

Conference Schedule

April 14
12:45-2:05 Slavery and Abolition
2:15-3:35 Slavery and Abolition

April 15
11:00am-12:30 History of the Book

April 16
12:45-2:05 Slavery and Abolition
2:15-3:35 Religion in African American History

April 17
11:00am-12:30 History of the Book

For more information contact Lucy Mulroney, Curator of Special Collections, ldmulron@syr.edu.