Black Literature Matters: The 1800s
In this original series of live online events, hear the voices of Black writers through history re-examined to inspire understanding of race in our country today.
Black Literature Matters celebrates Black writers in four extraordinary evenings. This second event of the series features writers from the 1800s including William Wells Brown, Frederick Douglass, Frances E.W. Harper (shown at left), Harriet Jacobs, David Walker, and Ida B. Wells. Head Librarian Carolyn Waters and Columbia University's Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin introduce the writers, their worlds, and the impact they had on readers of their time, with dramatic readings by actors Shontelle Thrash and Geoffrey D. Williams.
As New York City's oldest cultural institution, we are honored to do our part to highlight the thousands of stories by African American writers contained within our building and acquired since the 1700s.
Watch our announcements for events about the 1900s and 2000s in spring 2021.
Farah Jasmine Griffin is Chair of African-American & African Diaspora Studies, Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies, and the William B. Ransford Professor of English and Comparative Literature and African-American Studies at Columbia University. Professor Griffin received her B.A. from Harvard, where she majored in American History and Literature and her Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale. Her major fields of interest are American and African American literature, music, and history. She has published widely on issues of race and gender, feminism, jazz and cultural politics.
Carolyn Waters has been Head Librarian at the New York Society Library since 2015.
Writer, performer, and educator Shontelle Thrash has performed nationally and internationally and directed plays and other works across the US. Shontelle received her MFA in Acting from Louisiana State University and her MA in Film, Video and Digital Imaging from Georgia State University.
Geoffrey D. Williams' broad range of theater credits include Hoke Coleburn in Driving Miss Daisy, Walter Lee Younger in A Raisin in the Sun (2004 Jennie Award for Best Performance of an Actor in a Lead Role), and multiple productions of The Piano Lesson. He has been seen onscreen in The Trip to Bountiful for Lifetime Television, Separate But Equal for Disney/MGM Studios, the feature film The Leisure Seeker, and television including HBO's Boycott, AMC's Lodge #49, The CW's Containment, Fox's Sleepy Hollow, and FX's Atlanta.
The works highlighted in this program are:
- David Walker (1785-1830). Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular,
- and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, Written in Boston, State of Massachusetts, September 28, 1829: Electronic Edition.
- Maria W. Stewart, “Why Sit Ye Here and Die?”
- Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself. With an Introduction by Mr. George L. Ruffin, of Boston: Electronic Edition.
- Northup, Solomon. Twelve Years a Slave: Narrative of Solomon Northup, a Citizen of New-York, Kidnapped in Washington City in 1841, and Rescued in 1853, from a Cotton Plantation near the Red River in Louisiana
- Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself
- Said, Omar ibn. Autobiography of Omar ibn Said, Slave in North Carolina, 1831. Ed. John Franklin Jameson. From The American Historical Review, 30, No. 4. (July 1925), 787-795: Electronic Edition.
- Brown, William Wells. Clotel; or, The President's Daughter (1853 edition)
- Wilson, Harriet E. Our Nig or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In A Two-Story White House, North
- Crafts, Hannah, ed. by Henry Louis Gates Jr. The Bondswoman's Narrative
- Martin R. Delany, “Political Destiny of the Colored Race, on the American Continent,” Proceedings of the National Emigration Convention of Colored People, held at Cleveland, Ohio, August 24, 1854 (Pittsburgh, Pa.: A. A. Anderson, Printer, 1854).
- Whitfield, James M., "America," included in The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet, ed. Robert S. Levine and Ivy G. Wilson
- Garnet, Henry Highland, An Address to the Slaves of the United States of America, Delivered before the National Convention of Colored Citizens, Buffalo, New York, August 16, 1843
- Grimké, Charlotte Forten, "Life in the Sea Islands," The Atlantic Monthly, May 1864
- Harper, Frances E.W., "The Slave Mother"
- Harper, Frances E.W., “We Are All Bound Up Together”
- Harper, Frances E.W., Iola Leroy; or, Shadows Uplifted
- Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Wife of His Youth," from The Wife of His Youth, and Other Stories of the Color Line, 1899
- Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson, "I Sit and Sew"
- Paul Laurence Dunbar, "We Wear the Mask"
- Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Sympathy"
- Washington, Booker T. Up from Slavery
- Wells, Ida B., "Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases" (1892)
- Wells, Ida B., Speech on Lynch Law in America, Given in Chicago, Illinois, January, 1900
- Du Bois, W.E.B., "Douglass as a Statesman," 1895
- Dunbar, Paul Laurence, "Battle Cry of Freedom"