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Robert Penn Warren Center

Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities

Home > Newsletter > Fall 2011 > Warren Center Hosts Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar in 2012/2013

Warren Center Hosts Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar in 2012/2013

Vanderbilt University faculty members Richard Blackett (Andrew Jackson Professor of History), Teresa A. Goddu (Associate Professor of English and Director of the American Studies Program), and Jane G. Landers (Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of History) will be co-directing an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar at the Warren Center on the theme "The Age of Emancipation: Black Freedom in the Atlantic World" during the 2012/2013 academic year. The project will coincide with the sesquicentennial of the U.S. Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863).

The seminar co-directors submitted a successful application to the Mellon Foundation to underwrite the timely study. Each of the seminar directors has key expertise in areas related to the topic of study. Professor Blackett works on the transatlantic abolitionist movement and its efforts to bring about emancipation in the U.S. He is currently writing a book on the ways slaves influenced the debate over the future of slavery in the U.S. by escaping. Professor Goddu specializes in nineteenth-century American literature and culture with a focus on race and slavery. She is completing a book about the broad range of print, material, Warren Center Hosts Andrew W. Mellon Foundation John E. Sawyer Seminar in 2012/2013 and visual culture produced by the U.S. antislavery movement, paying particular attention to the print and visual productions of former slaves. Professor Landers specializes in African resistance and marronage in Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean. She is the author of Atlantic Creoles in the Age of Revolution (Harvard, 2010), which traces a diverse group of African-born and African-descended individuals who gained freedom by participating in the major revolutions of their era.

During its weekly meetings, the seminar will focus on the freedom movements that resisted and reshaped slavery. The goal of this seminar will be to produce a global perspective on the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation by locating it within a broader age of emancipation that occurred in the Atlantic World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Through the comparative study of Atlantic World freedom movements, seminar participants will produce a nuanced account of the various types of emancipations and the cultural technologies that enabled them. By tracing the continuities and discontinuities among types and forms of emancipations in different Atlantic regions and by exploring the intersection of different disciplinary approaches to the topic, the seminar's deliberations will provide a comprehensive understanding of how the search for liberty evolved and expanded in the Atlantic World and how it left complex legacies that still persist. Emancipation was never a single event but rather a continuous process that influenced slavery's very structures.

In addition to the three seminar co-directors, the seminar will consist of six Vanderbilt University faculty members, two Vanderbilt University graduate students, and one Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow from an institution other than Vanderbilt. Scholars selected for participation will also be appointed as Warren Center Fellows for 2012/2013 year. Fellows will receive individual research funds for participation in the program. Funds will also be available to the seminar to host an array of visiting speakers during the year that the seminar is meeting as well as a workshop in the fall of 2013 that will be planned by members of the seminar. More information about the application process for the Sawyer Seminar is available on our website: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/rpw_center/.


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