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Democracy in America: Learning from the Black Press in Antebellum New York State

Democracy in America: Learning from the Black Press in Antebellum New York State Online

This talk will explore democracy in the United States through the early Black press, beginning with the publication of Freedom’s Journal in 1827. Through newspapers, political conventions, and petition drives, African American activists in New York State wrangled with the contradictions of living in a state that enshrined emancipation in its constitution even as it restricted black voting rights. They developed an understanding of citizenship and suffrage as natural rights that a state could not abridge without serious consequences to itself and its citizens. Drawing on archival resources from across the state, this talk asks: What lessons do these antebellum struggles for citizenship and access have for us today?


Derrick R. Spires is Associate Professor of Literatures in English and affiliate faculty in American Studies, Visual Studies, and Media Studies at Cornell University. He specializes in early African American and American print culture, citizenship studies, and African American intellectual history. His first book, The Practice of Citizenship: Black Politics and Print Culture in the Early United States (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019), won the Modern Language Association Prize for First Book and the St. Louis Mercantile Library Prize. His work on early African American politics and print culture appears in African American Review, American Literary History, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of American, and edited collections on early African American print culture, American literature, and the Colored Conventions movement. Spires’s work has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, and the Mellon/Mays Initiatives.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022
12:00pm - 1:00pm
Time Zone:
Eastern Time - US & Canada (change)
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