Posts Tagged new books
Book review forthcoming: “The Princeton Fugitive Slave: The Trials of James Collins Johnson” by Prof. Lolita Buckner Inniss (Fordham University Press, 2019)
James Collins Johnson ran with Frederick Bailey. Whereas in 1836 Collins evaded incrimination and capture, in 1839 he made his own move out Easton in Talbot County, Maryland.
As a late night rider of the Underground Railroad James Collins Johnson uplifted his humanity.
A lost legend of history they never wanted you to know. The Shore holds secrets not whispered for generations and history not told for centuries.
Must acknowledge Princeton University and express gratitude to Prof. Lolita Buckner Inniss for honorably recognizing this sacred story of a friend of peasants, students and presidents.
By: Lolita Buckner Inniss
Forthcoming Publication: September 2019
I never got no free papers. Princeton College bought me; Princeton College owns me; and Princeton College has got to give me my living.
James Collins Johnson made his name by escaping slavery in Maryland and fleeing to Princeton, where he built a life in a bustling community of African Americans working at what is now Princeton University. After only four years, he was recognized by a student from Maryland, arrested, and subjected to a trial for extradition under the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act. On the eve of his rendition, after attempts to free Johnson by force had failed, a local aristocratic white woman purchased Johnson’s freedom, allowing him to avoid re-enslavement. The Princeton Fugitive Slave reconstructs James Collins Johnson’s life, from birth and enslaved life in Maryland to his daring escape, sensational trial for re-enslavement, and last-minute change of fortune, and through to the end of his life in Princeton, where he remained a figure of local fascination.
Stories of Johnson’s life in Princeton often describe him as a contented, jovial soul, beloved on campus and memorialized on his gravestone as “the Students Friend.” But these familiar accounts come from student writings and sentimental recollections in alumni reports—stories from elite, predominantly white, often southern sources whose relationships with Johnson were hopelessly distorted by differences in race and social standing. In interrogating these stories against archival records, newspaper accounts, courtroom narratives, photographs, and family histories, author Lolita Buckner Inniss builds a picture of Johnson on his own terms, piecing together the sparse evidence and disaggregating him from the other black vendors with whom he was sometimes confused.
By telling Johnson’s story and examining the relationship between antebellum Princeton’s black residents and the economic engine that supported their community, the book questions the distinction between employment and servitude that shrinks and threatens to disappear when an individual’s freedom is circumscribed by immobility, lack of opportunity, and contingency on local interpretations of a hotly contested body of law.
Lolita Buckner Inniss, J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., is a professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, where she is a Robert G. Storey Distinguished Faculty Fellow. Her research addresses historic, geographic, metaphoric, and visual norms of law, especially in the context of race, gender, and comparative constitutionalism.
New Book: “Frederick Douglass and Scotland, 1846: Living an Antislavery Life,” by Alasdair Pettinger (Edinburgh University Press)
The first full-length study of Frederick Douglass’ visit to Scotland in 1846
Frederick Douglass (1818–95) was not the only fugitive from American slavery to visit Scotland before the Civil War, but he was the best known and his impact was far-reaching. This book shows that addressing crowded halls from Ayr to Aberdeen, he gained the confidence, mastered the skills and fashioned the distinctive voice that transformed him as a campaigner. It tells how Douglass challenged the Free Church over its ties with the Southern plantocracy; how he exploited his knowledge of Walter Scott and Robert Burns to brilliant effect; and how he asserted control over his own image at a time when racial science and blackface minstrel shows were beginning to shape his audiences’ perceptions. He arrived as a subordinate envoy of white abolitionists, legally still enslaved. He returned home as a free man ready to embark on a new stage of his career, as editor and proprietor of his own newspaper and a leader in his own right.
- Reveals fresh information about, and deepens our understanding of, a major 19th-century intellectual at a crucial stage in his political and professional development
- Subjects Douglass’ speeches and letters to close readings and situates them in the immediate context of their delivery and composition
- Demonstrates the extent to which Douglass was closely acquainted with Scottish literature, history and current affairs
- Enhances our knowledge of Douglass as a performer, his ability to read audiences, and how he moved and influenced them
List of Figures
1. ‘Throw Him Overboard’
2. The Making of a Fugitive
3. ‘Put Them in Irons’
Part II: Dark, Polluted Gold
4. Electric Speed
5. That Ticklish Possession
6. The Free Church Responds
7. The Price of Freedom
8. The Genealogy of Money
9. Gilded Cages
Part III: Douglass, Scott and Burns
10. ‘One of Scotland’s Many Famous Names’
11. A Wild Proposition
12. New Relations and Duties
13. A Visit to Ayr
14. The Coward Slave and the Poor Negro Driver
15. Crooked Paths
16.The Sons and Daughters of Old Scotia
Part IV: Measuring Heads, Reading Faces
17. Breakfast with Combe
18. The Physiological Century
19. Travelling Phrenologically
20. A Glut of Ethiopians
21. Douglass on Stage
22. The Suit and the Engraving
Part V: The Voyage Home
23. A Disconnected Farewell
24. Cabin 72
25. Never Again
Part VI: The Affinity Scot
26. Recitals of Blood
27. Choosing Ancestors
28. Remembering Douglass
29. Out of My Place
Author Talk & Book Signing: “If I Survive” by Dr. Celeste-Marie Bernier @ Twin Oaks – Friday, September, 7, 1-3pm [Ticket $25, sponsored by Maryland State Archives]
Please consider joining us for this very special event!
Seating is limited and is anticipated to sell out quickly.
To reserve your seat and copy of the book please call 410-260-6461.
Simon and Schuster Copy Editor & Prof. David Blight: “There is no ‘Charleston’ in the state of Maryland.” [W Street Douglassonian copy edit of “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom”]
Dear Simon and Schuster Copy Editor:
In reviewing an advanced copy of Prof. David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom I have come across a small, yet important and consequential, copy edit.
While there are “Charlestons” in nearly two dozen states naming towns, cities, counties and a state capital there is no Charleston in Maryland. There is a Charlestown (Cecil County) and Chestertown (Kent County).
If Prof. Blight is referencing a lost junction, town or city in Dorchester County I am unaware of its existence or its history.
I would kindly suggest the appropriate correction is made. Geographic accuracy and importance of place matters to the good people on the Shore and in Tubman Country.
Thank you for your time and attention.
author, Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C.: The Lion of Anacostia
Old Anacostia Douglassonian
Blight, David. W. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Simon and Schuster, 2018.
p. 598, 2nd paragraph, 1st sentence
I am not throwing stones from a glass house; I am lodging boulders from W Street in Old Anacostia.
As a local journalist, I go to great lengths to fact-check my stories to spell names and places correctly, as well to get the facts right.
In my book there is a copy error or two. It happens. I understand. Comes with the territory. For example, there is a mention of “Lewis Douglas” as Deputy Marshal when of course it is correctly “Lewis Douglass.” Additionally, I over-use the word intrepid in concurrent paragraphs.
However, I am neither a lauded professor at Yale University nor was my book published by one of the “Big Five.”
The expectation to get simple, rudimentary facts correct is not an unreasonable expectation.
I can only speak for myself but every inhabitant of Pine Street, Bucktown and “Pindertown” I have had the acquaintance of making knows in their sleep the city closely affiliated with Harriet Tubman is Cambridge.
Forthcoming profiles of “Black Women in the World of Frederick Douglass” to provide fuller history than selective and restrictive “[White] Women in the World of Frederick Douglass” (Oxford University Press, 2017)
LeMoyne College professor Leigh Fought, author of Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, has recently decided to insert herself into my ongoing refutation of the speculative “scholarship” of disgraceful David Blight.
Until Prof. Fought decided to reach I have quietly kept reoccurring critiques I’ve heard of her award-winning book to myself.
Politics of respectability need no longer apply 1) after Fought posted a message on her blog about me without so much as letting me know and 2) deleted my initial comments apologizing for involving her, although she initially provided her full consent, with ongoing research projects into records pertaining to Anna Douglass and other family members that have remained elusive and unpublished.
Dr. Fought was asked and enlisted in these research pursuits because of her professionalism but she has shown herself to prioritize pettiness over the pursuit of scholarship. Prof. Fought’s actions are not only disgraceful to the journalistic legacy of Dr. Douglass but to the journalism of Helen Pitts Douglass.
Taught about history on the county roads & back of the late night 70 bus
While a student at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Maryland I frequently called out not only the errors and textbook omissions in our world history and US history classes but other classmates. I was known to get passionate and sometimes would more than call out a fellow student or two. (I did the same in college.)
My high school teachers were of little to no help calming me down, with the exception of Vietnam combat veteran and AP US History teacher Robert J. Washek. Often my classmates would intervene to calm me down so as to prevent me from crossing the line. On more than one occasion a young African-American woman, or women, grabbed me by the arm and took me into the hallway to either provide counsel or a moment of prayer to calm me down.
That is how I came up.
I thank E. Bacon, C. Williams, K. Dawkins, M. Sawyer, A. Philpot, T. Stewart, K. Jones, the late E. Cray and many others who I can’t recall without the aid of a yearbook.
I recently spoke to an old high school classmate and told her about the intellectual delicateness and fragile egos of fellow Douglass scholars, including the genteel Leigh Fought. I will trust counsel of someone I’ve known for twenty years over the “gas lighting” efforts of an insincere scholar who was initially helpful and supportive of my efforts, including donating money to a community conference and mural installation at 16th & W Street SE.
According to a dear friend I’ve known since I was 12, “Give them the same grief you gave our teachers. That’s their job to deal with it and recognize the validity. If not, I know how you go. We all know how you go. I don’t think they understand where you’re coming from, where we are all from. Let them know. We taught you, so you better teach them. I pray for them. They don’t know who they are playing with.”
My friend, who read Prof. Fought’s book, suggested I begin a series on the blog, Black Women in the World of Frederick Douglass.
While Prof. Fought went nobly further than any previous biographers in treating the Douglass family — specifically Anna, Rosetta and other women within the intimate cipher of Dr. Douglass — with respect and scholarship there are massive errors, omissions and more than a couple misinterpretations in her work.
Troubling statements and omissions in [White] Women in the World of Frederick Douglass
As Prof. Fought has says, Dr. Douglass ran with a “legion” of women from various reformist movements yet [White] Women in the World of Frederick Douglass is largely a minimization and whitewashing of the associations Dr. Douglass had with women of African descent.
For example, Emily Edmonson, a student at Oberlin College, teacher at the Miner School and a confidant of Dr. Douglass, for nearly a half-century, while a resident of both Sandy Spring, Maryland and Hillsdale, Washington, D.C. in the modern-day Barry Farm community of Southeast is mentioned one single time in the body text of Fought’s manuscript.
On page 140 Edmonson, who also warrants a caption and source note, is described simply as a “former slave.”
“Furor over Frederick and Julia subsided for a time in 1854. In February and March, Julia joined Gerrit Smith, now a congressman, in Washington, DC, reporting her observations of the nation’s capital for Frederick Douglass; Paper. In June, she traveled to Canada West, bringing aid to former slave Emily Edmonson for black expatriates suffering from famine.
This is troubling.
I attempted to forewarn Prof. Fought. She alludes to my warning in her acknowledgements:
John Muller, who knows more about Douglass in DC and the neighborhood around Cedar Hill than I thought possible, who pointed me toward the black women whom Douglass worked with there, and who is a meticulous researcher.
That said, I am a street reporter and a street historian. I came up in the community and the community is where I remain.
Scholars, such as Prof. Fought, who cannot debate and have a conversation are not scholars; they are dangerous propagandists of their own distortions, misinterpretations and lies.
Another book about “political philosophy” of Douglass -> “A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass” (University of Kentucky Press, 2018)
I was sent information after the fold by Williams College Professor Neil Roberts, the books’s editor, and responded with an inquiry clarifying how the alleged “rising scholars” were selected.
I’ve heard of Angela Davis and Nicolas Bucolla (when I told an intern of his I would not do pro-bono research for her into the New National Era) but otherwise I’ve never heard of nor corresponded with any of the scholars.
Professor Roberts said he was familiar with my work and not bound by the academic insularity that, in my opinion, has suppressed the field of Douglass Studies for generations.
I decided even as the book appears to be a compilation of mumbo-jumbo academic word salad scholarship — i.e. “hemispheric thinker” as descriptive praise — it is a new work of Douglass Studies. Therefore it deserves attention on principle of uplifting scholarship.
Personally, this philosophical scholarship appears a striking resemblance to its first-cousin … speculative scholarship.
We’ve been here before:
We hope A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass (2018) mentions at least two Supreme Court Justices, three Senators, four Congressmen and a President other than Lincoln. The political network of Douglass and its implication has yet to be advanced by scholars. We hope. We always do.
Prof. Roberts is a young Douglassonian scholar. This generation of Douglassonians, and the next, must build an entire infrastructure of Douglass Studies that scholars of Lincoln, Twain, Dickens, Dickinson, Poe, Whitman and others have enjoyed for decades.
In our limited understanding of the nascent field of Douglass Studies, Prof. Roberts and Johns Hopkins University Prof. Lawrence Jackson are the only two men of African descent engaged in the work of uplifting scholarship.
We understand the limitations of the university and commend these two scholars for their important work.
Lastly, we have on open invitation to Prof. Roberts, and all other educators, to walk Old Anacostia and see what Dr. Douglass saw.
Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was a prolific writer and public speaker whose impact on American literature and history has been long studied by historians and literary critics. Yet as political theorists have focused on the legacies of such notables as W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, Douglass’s profound influence on Afro-modern and American political thought has often been undervalued.
In an effort to fill this gap in the scholarship on Douglass, editor Neil Roberts and an exciting group of established and rising scholars examine the author’s autobiographies, essays, speeches, and novella. Together, they illuminate his genius for analyzing and articulating core American ideals such as independence, liberation, individualism, and freedom, particularly in the context of slavery. The contributors explore Douglass’s understanding of the self-made American and the way in which he expanded the notion of individual potential by arguing that citizens had a responsibility to improve not only their own situations but also those of their communities.
A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass also considers the idea of agency, investigating Douglass’s passionate insistence that every person in a democracy, even a slave, possesses an innate ability to act. Various essays illuminate Douglass’s complex racial politics, deconstructing what seems at first to be his surprising aversion to racial pride, and others explore and critique concepts of masculinity, gender, and judgment in his oeuvre. The volume concludes with a discussion of Douglass’s contributions to pre– and post–Civil War jurisprudence.
Neil Roberts is associate professor of Africana studies, political theory, and the philosophy of religion at Williams College. His book Freedom as Marronage is the recipient of awards from the American Political Science Association Foundations of Political Theory section and Choice magazine, and the Association for College and Research Libraries selected the work as a Top 25 book for 2015. He is president of the Caribbean Philosophical Association.
“Frederick Douglass’s identity as a major voice in black American thought has long been recognized, but his significance has usually been ghettoized. Neil Roberts’s important anthology is a valuable contribution to the growing body of work seeking to establish Douglass as one of the most important political theorists in US history—an interlocutor with whom we should all be urgently engaging, given the legacy of slavery and racial injustice in the United States.” — Charles W. Mills, Distinguished Professor, CUNY Graduate Center, and author of Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism
“Through the careful, probing, and insightful work of an incredibly distinguished group of contributors, A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass sets a new bar for scholarly writing on Douglass’ political thought. This groundbreaking and rich text is essential reading.” — Tommie Shelby, Harvard University
“The beauty and brilliance of Frederick Douglass’s political thought is brought to life in Neil Roberts’ outstanding volume. Offering readers a rare opportunity to engage Douglass’s work in all its variety and complexity, A Political Companion to Frederick Douglass reveals him as a hemispheric thinker whose analyses of freedom, power, slavery, and white supremacy are enmeshed in current questions of affect, aesthetics, resistance, and the very nature of political membership. This book’s extraordinary social and political theorists remind us that democracy’s promise requires confronting the practices of unfreedom that haunt us still.” — Cristina Beltrán, New York University
For ordering please contact www.kentuckypress.com or call 1-800-537-5487 and use DISCOUNT CODE FS30 to receive a 30% discount through September 1, 2018
Brooklyn Historical Society hosts Leigh Fought, Dec. 11, 2017 _ Book Talk:”Women in the World of Frederick Douglass”
Historian and professor of American History at Le Moyne College, Leigh Fought, paints an alternative portrait of abolitionist and social reformer Frederick Douglass by examining the lives of the women around him. In this latest work, Fought sheds light on Douglass’s relationships to his mother, grandmother, slave mistresses, wives Anna Murray and Helen Pitts, and many other women who nurtured, challenged, and united with him in shared struggles for emancipation, the right to vote, and equality.
Book Talk: Women in the World of Frederick Douglass
Monday, December 11
Doors: 6:00 pm
Event: 6:30 pm
$5 General Admission / Free for Members
BHS Members: to reserve tickets at the member price, click on “Tickets” and enter your Member ID on the following page after clicking on “Enter Promotional Code.”
REFUND POLICY Brooklyn Historical Society requires 24 hours notice before the date of the event to refund a ticket. No refunds are provided after that point. No refunds are provided on the day of the event and all subsequent days.
Founded in 1863, Brooklyn Historical Society (BHS) is a library, museum, and urban education center dedicated to the people of Brooklyn, providing opportunities for civic dialogue and thoughtful engagement.
In a series of books published over the last fifteen years by the University of Iowa Press prominent literary men and women from the 19th century such as Louisa May Alcott, Edgar Allen Poe, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman have been remembered by those that knew them best; not modern historians but their contemporaries who knew them as they lived.
Joining rank in the collection is Douglass in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates,” ably and succinctly compiled by John Ernest, Chair of the English Department at the University of Delaware.
Douglass in His Own Time is a welcome and timely addition to the truly limited scholarship on Douglass, poised to swell as we approach the bicentennial of his birth in 2018.
In the introduction Ernest offers, “One might say that Douglass is not merely celebrated for his story; he is also contained by it, reduced to the confines of a heroic struggle against slavery and his attainment of a glorious freedom through which he continued his antislavery work. Less a living presence than an inspiring tale, Frederick Douglass remains relatively unknown even to many of those who celebrate his achievements. Douglass in His Own Time offers an introduction to Douglass the man by those who knew him – but even in these writings Douglass can seem elusive, shadowed by the fame that enters every room before him.”
The book includes an introduction, 13 photos and prints (not cited with the most exacting detail or captions), a chronology, 43 unique entries and an index. The recollections span the entirety of Douglass’s life from his early years as a slave at Wye House to his toil as a rising star and agent on the anti-slavery circuit to his controversial second marriage and travels abroad to his waning years as a commencement speaker.
Well-known individuals appear from William Wells Brown to Paul Laurence Dunbar to Elizabeth Cady Stanton alongside lesser-known reformists, journalists and educators such as “Grace Greenwood,” Cordelia Ray, James McCune Smith, and Kelly Miller. While expansive in its selection it is in no way inclusive of all sources nor does it pledge to be. Absent are reminiscences from any members of Douglass’s family as well as two women, Ida Wells and Mary Church Terrell (as well as her husband Robert H. Terrell), whose activism influenced the direction of 20th century American life.
The range of source material gathered by Ernest demonstrates the many public lives and various activist causes Douglass embraced and embodied over more than a half-century on both sides of the Atlantic and from Massachusetts to Rochester to Washington to Alabalama. Abolitionists, suffragists, editors and members of the church are all appropriately accounted for in this remembrance of Douglass
Any limitations aside, the book promises to be enjoyed by both general Douglassonian and specialists. For those building their Douglass-related library, your collection is not complete unless you have Douglass in His Own Time.