ART Event | DEFINING DEMOCRACY: How Black Print Culture Shaped America, Then and Now

KEYNOTE: Defining Democracy, Presented by Cornell University


Join Cornell University literary historian and author Derrick Spires in this webcast as he challenges the assumption that there was little or no Black print culture in 19th-century America before the Civil War. Using material from Cornell’s own Rare and Manuscript Collections, including the Samuel J. May collection,

Dr. Spires will explore the oft-neglected written record of African American intellectual history, New York state activism, and Black material culture. By highlighting these rare print materials, Dr. Spires will demonstrate the vibrancy and centrality of Black print culture — and its importance to understanding citizenship and democracy in America’s 19th century as well as its 21st.

Printing with printing presses at Claflin University, Orangeburg, South Carolina Orangeburg, 1899. Public Domain

Observers have described the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 as “America’s long overdue awakening to systemic racism.” Yet Black Americans in this country have been raising their voices for over 200 years to confront disenfranchisement, articulating again and again what it means to be a democratic citizen. And they began to put those thoughts in writing well before the Revolutionary War.

Image: The North star. (Rochester, NY), Dec. 3 1847. Public Domain


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