"Colored Conventions and the Long History of Black Activism"—public lecture by Gabrielle Foreman

Monday, November 6, 2017 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Event Location: 
UI Main Library Gallery
(just across from North door)
Iowa City, IA 52242
Headshot of Gabrielle Foreman

A public lecture by Dr. Gabrielle Foreman (University of Delaware), sponsored by Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry: A Grinnell College and University of Iowa Partnership

Location: University of Iowa Main Library Gallery (just across from North door)

For more than half a century, nineteenth-century Black Americans advocated for justice in state and national “Colored Conventions.” Why is such a continuous history of Black-led organizing and protest, one that features the most prominent writers, newspaper editors, speakers, church leaders, educators and entrepreneurs in the canon of early African American leadership known to so few? This talk by the faculty director of the Colored Conventions Project outlines the collective digital humanities work that has made the records and history of this movement freely available. It examines 19th century collective assertions for freedom and elucidates convention participants collective will to make real the self-evident: that Black education, Black voting and legal rights, Black employment, and Black claims to equal rights mattered then as they do now.

P. Gabrielle Foreman is the Ned B. Allen Professor of English and Professor of History and Black American Studies at the University of Delaware. She has published extensively on issues of race, slavery and reform in the nineteenth century with a focus on the past's continuing hold on the world we inhabit today. She is the author of several widely known books and editions. In her Penguin edition of Our Nig: or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black by Harriet Wilson, known as the nation's first Black woman novelist, Foreman and her co-editor "managed to pick up one of the coldest trails in nineteenth-century African American studies." The radio tour that followed reached millions of listeners; lectures were "pick of the week" in cities such as Philadelphia and featured in articles such as the Boston Globe. A later collaboration with poets, choreographers, and composers transformed Foreman's research into a performance piece that has been adopted in classrooms across the country and viewed by thousands online. Her 2013 state of the field essay about the growing popularity of race in the humanities as fewer African Americans are trained to be leaders in these field calls for deliberate attention to be paid to this ongoing trend by universities, leading repositories, and professional organizations.

Foreman has been a Kellogg National Leadership Program fellow, a fellow at the National Humanities Center and the Huntington Library, among others. As a Ford Foundation Fellow, she provides mentorship for emerging and mid-career faculty of color across disciplines and institutions. She co-founded Action for Social Change and Youth Empowerment, which provided in-depth training to cohorts of young people who then took seats on the Boards of Directors of leading and state-wide organizations whose work impacted youth and facilitated a culture of cooperation across organizational sectors, racial groups, and immigrant statuses.

Foreman has a long-standing commitment to the intersection of digital technologies, race, and public history. In the 1990s, she was part of a three person interdisciplinary that fully integrated digital technologies into first-year required courses at liberal arts colleges for the first time. Foreman is the founding faculty director of the Colored Conventions Project, which since 2012 has made digitally available six decades of Black political organizing that overlapped with and was obscured by the abolitionist movement. The project has involved over 1,000 students across the country in undergraduate research through its curriculum adopted by the Project's national teaching partners while launching a transcription project recognized alongside those by the British Library and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Foreman has been recognized for her teaching, advising, and scholarship, winning college-wide awards for distinguished teaching and scholarship. She is currently completing The Art of DisMemory: Historicizing Slavery in Poetry, Performance, and Material Culture and a co-edited volume (with her graduate students), Colored Conventions in the Nineteenth-Century and the Digital Age, linked to digital exhibits for the public, which will be featured on www.ColoredConventions.org.


Co-sponsored by Digital Bridges for Humanistic Inquiry: A Grinnell College and University of Iowa Partnership, the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, the UI's Digital Research and Publishing Studio, the Department of American Studies, the African American Studies Program, the Department of English, and the Department of History