Abolition Democracy Initiative
Abolition Democracy Initiative
Black Voices in the Shadows of the Big House: Folk artist Clementine Hunter’s challenge to southern gentility narratives of slavery and slave cabins
Stephen Small, Director, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, and Professor, African American Studies, UC Berkeley
With Ula Y. Taylor, Professor of African American Studies & 1960 Chair of Undergraduate Education, UC Berkeley, as respondent
Tens of thousands of plantations, buildings, work structures and gardens currently comprise a tourist infrastructure of the southern heritage industry. Louisiana is one of the most prominent and frequently visited states that benefit from this tourism and has more than sixty heritage sites housed in former slave plantations. These sites contain the remains, restorations, reconstructions and replicas of antebellum slave cabins and slave quarters. In this presentation, I focus on three plantation heritage sites with 16 slave cabins located in the parish of Natchitoches, in northwest Louisiana: Oakland Plantation, Magnolia Plantation Complex and Melrose Plantation. The slave cabins and the enslaved women and men that lived in them are addressed in all three heritage sites, but information about them is inferior and subordinate to information about elite white men and women. A distinctive feature of Melrose Plantation is that it was owned by legally free people of color who owned more enslaved people than any other legally free people of color in the entire Antebellum south. The slave cabins at Melrose are symbolically annihilated – they are not presented as slave cabins but as writers’ cabins occupied by white writers in the 1930s. But a powerful and compelling counter narrative can be found in the artwork of folk artist Clementine Hunter, whose paintings offer a social critique of southern gentility and whose work centers the importance of Black life, Black culture, Black celebration and Black joy. Her work reveals how and why southern gentility narratives can be questioned and challenged.
Doors open at 11:30 and close at 12:15. No admission after 12:15.
Maxwell Vanderwarker, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-642-0813
Bells on the Hill: Rage and Slavery’s Postbellum Madness
Professor Micah Khater
Monday, October 2nd
12:15 to 1:45 pm
Social Sciences Building, Room 650 Albert Johnson Conference Room
This paper examines how objects from slavery forged a relationship between the antebellum and the postbellum and how formerly enslaved people contested these invocations of the past through material remembrance, rage, and stories of white madness. By tracing the life of one object, the bell rack, I explore the profound complexities of theorizing madness, disability, and slavery. Insanity is often marshalled against the possibility of Black rage. But what happens when descriptions of “insane” emerge out of Black rage instead of as its point of erasure? Where might we locate explanatory power in stories about white psychosis, but not as a condemnation of madness itself?
To receive a copy of the paper, RSVP for lunch provided during the event (including dietary restrictions), and/or request an accommodation to more fully participate, please register at the following link by September 17:
400 Years of African American History Symposium
This day-long symposium will kick off a year of events at UC Berkeley to mark the 400 year anniversary of the beginning of slavery in North America. The events are being co-organized by the Haas Institute, the African American studies and history departments, the African American Student Development Center, and the Black Staff & Faculty Organization.Read Full Story