Lynne Niznik, chair and associate professor of History/Political Science at Clarke University, is one of a select group of faculty members nationwide chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to participate in a special American history seminar on “Slave Narratives.”
The multidisciplinary seminar for faculty members in history, English, and related fields will use the slave narratives — as well as some other assigned secondary reading — to comprehend the lived experience of slaves themselves in the transition from bondage to freedom. From a pool of 66 highly competitive nominations, 27 faculty members were selected to participate in the seminar, which will be held at Yale University June 19-24, 2016.
David W. Blight, professor of American History at Yale University, will lead the seminar. Blight is the author of American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era (2011); A Slave No More: Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation (2007); and Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (2001).
Seminar participants will examine both antebellum and postbellum narratives. Before the Civil War approximately 65 narratives were published in English, many of them now classics. The pre-emancipation narratives were often serious works of literature. They tended to focus on the oppression of slavery and on a former slave’s indictment of the institution of bondage as a means of advancing the antislavery argument. The post-emancipation narratives, of which there are approximately 55 in existence, tended to be more success stories — triumphs over the past and visions of a more prosperous future. The most famous pre-war narrative is that of Frederick Douglass, and the most famous post-war narrative is that of Booker T. Washington. Seminar participants will read both of these and several other books, including A Slave No More.