Dr. Jermaine Archer, Chair of the American Studies Department, will be speaking about “Frederick Douglass: Legacies,” as part of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Public Lecture Series, in collaboration with the Black History Month Committee and the American Studies Department.
The tradition of African-American autobiography began with ex-slaves who wrote their life stories with the purpose of ending slavery. Frederick Douglass became the most famous author and reformer to write within this early genre, publishing three versions of his narrative. Douglass also strategically became the most common photographed subject of nineteenth century portraitures. While attention is often given to the first two editions of his autobiographies which appeared before the end of the Civil War, critics rarely consider how Douglass substantially added to the earlier texts in his last volume "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass," published twenty-eight years after slavery ended. This presentation seeks to examine how Douglass’ effort to shape visual narratives as the most popular photographed subject of this era is linked to the cultural and political ideas covered at length in "Life and Times." Today, people are increasingly telling and retelling their own stories in a variety of creative formats. In many ways Douglass was at the forefront of these expressive processes.
Dr. Archer was presented with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2013. His book, "Antebellum Slave Narratives: Political and Cultural Expressions of Africa," examines the persistence of African culture in the developing African-American traditions in 19th century America. He is presently working on a manuscript, "Visual Insurgency: Recasting the Art of Emancipation," that investigates how some images of African-American emancipation festivals and parades during and shortly after Reconstruction ran counter to the pervasive minstrel caricatured depictions of African-American public sphere performative culture during the antebellum period. The project examines the production of images by African American sketch artists who worked for the burgeoning African-American pictorial press in the second half of the nineteenth century and also closely explores the ways African Americans in Virginia strongly urged the famous Civil War artist Winslow Homer to paint them dressing for their annual festival known as Jonkonnu for his 1877 oil painting “Dressing for Carnival.”
The MA in Liberal Studies Public Lecture Series features innovative research by Old Westbury’s MALS-affiliated faculty from a wide variety of disciplines. Presenters share their expertise as scholars, provide insights into current events, and engage in discussion with audience members. Lectures are free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible. Space may be limited, so be sure to plan ahead. To learn more about the graduate program, or the Lecture Series, please contact friskena [at] oldwestbury.edu (Amanda Frisken).