My book in progress, Teaching and Testifying: Black Women’s American Classicism, asks what the thriving culture of classical GrecoRoman adaptations in 19th century America meant to African Americans, and to popular conceptualizations of race before and after Emancipation. From education in Greek, Latin, and classical rhetoric to the ubiquity of neoclassical art, sculpture, and architecture, the classics were omnipresent in early Americans’ everyday lives-even as classical education operated as a social machinery of exclusion that denied access to many African Americans and women.
My research narrates the hidden history of black classicism as a popular cultural phenomenon. I show how black women engaged with classical legacies in contexts ranging from the courthouse and lecture platform to elementary schoolrooms, activist organizations, and newspapers, performing embodied hybridizations of classical rhetoric and black cultural expressions that promoted racial equality and shattered the myth of white classical inheritance.
Minding “Our Cicero”: Nineteenth-Century African American Women’s Rhetoric and the Classical Tradition (2014)
Here is a video about my dissertation that I presented at the University of California Society of Fellows meeting in Santa Barbara in April 2014.