Guest Post: In Search of Annie Parker by Professor Jack McKivigan

UntitledThanks to support from the IUPUI Arts & Humanities Institute, the IU New Currents program, and several campus offices and departments as well as Indiana Humanities (the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities), the Frederick Douglass Papers will sponsor a gathering of scholars, teachers, students, and the general public to examine the historical and literary significance of Douglass’s novella, “The Heroic Slave” (1853), on our campus in October.

In preparation for this symposium several members of the Douglass Papers staff have been engaged in a small piece of literary detective work. Douglass’s “Heroic Slave” was originally published as a contribution to the short “gift book” entitled Autographs for Freedom, published in Boston by the firm of John P. Jewitt. Besides Douglass, this collection of essays, poems, and short fiction features many well-known mid-nineteenth century writers and political and reform leaders including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Sumner, Horace Greeley, John G. Whittier, and Caroline Dall.

Among the diverse collection of black and white, male and female, American and British contributors to Autographs is the writer Annie Parker who published a poem “Story Telling” and the separate story, “Passages in the Life of a Slave Woman.” In the latter, the narrator, a slave woman, recounts the tragic outcome of a master/slave sexual relationship. In the past few decades this piece has been anthologized several times as one of the earliest works of fiction by an African American author. But who was Annie Parker? None of the anthologies or scholars writing about the story have ever been able to supply any biographical details about her.

Project assistant editor Jeffrey Duvall, graduate research assistant Rebecca Pattillo, and I have been at work trying to answer that question this summer. Frederick Douglass’s own Rochester-published newspaper contains a piece under Parker’s byline in the early 1850s and two other short journalistic pieces by her appear in a Geneva, New York-based temperance newspaper in that same era. Then the trail gets cold, very cold.

Genealogical sources turn up a few possible “Annie Parkers” in the upstate New York region but none of them has any known connection to the antislavery movement and all were white. Perhaps Annie Parker was not a runaway slave as others have speculated. This raises the possibility that “Annie Parker” was a pen name–but whose?

The most intriguing possibility is that Parker is none other than Harriet Jacobs, the author of the famous 1859 autobiography of her horrifyingly abusive career as a South Carolina slave. Jacobs had escaped slavery in the early 1840s and worked as a maid for the Massachusetts journalist Nathaniel Parker Willis, who is referred to twice obtusely in Parker’s own writings. In 1849-50, two years before the publication of the Autographs, Jacobs lived in Rochester and actually worked in the same building where Douglass edited his newspaper. While Jacobs had returned to working for Willis in Massachusetts by the time Autographs was compiled, those earlier connections might have led the gift book’s editor, Julia Griffiths, to have solicited a piece by Jacobs, although no evidence of such a solicitation has yet been found. The same year, Harriet Beecher Stowe also asked Jacobs to write a summary of her slave experiences to include in her Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a response to critics of her condemnation of slave mistreatment in her earlier novel. The Douglass staff is exploring whether Jacobs might have wanted to tell her personal story herself in a safer fictional form in the pages of Autographs.

The product of this research will just be a small part of the upcoming symposium, where Douglass papers staff will be joined by seven widely-published scholars from several disciplines to explore various contexts of “the Heroic Slave.” The event is free and open to the public and we hope will be well-attended by many persons from the central Indiana community interested in Frederick Douglass and his campaign against slavery.

by Jack Kaufman-McKivigan

Dr. Kaufman-McKivigan is Mary O’Brien Gibson Professor of History at IUPUI; Co-Director, annual Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Public Lecture and Workshop Series and Past-Director, annual Midwest Peace & Justice Summit (2005-2011); and Project Editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers Edition.

Frederick Douglass scholars, IUPUI to celebrate publication of Douglass’ ‘The Heroic Slave’

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Frederick Douglass

INDIANAPOLIS — University scholars from the U.S. and Europe will gather at an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis event next month celebrating a new publication of an “underappreciated gem” – a novel authored by famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

The Frederick Douglass Papers Edition, a documentary editing project of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, will host the conference, “Frederick Douglass’s ‘The Heroic Slave’ and the American Revolutionary Tradition” on Oct. 9 and 10. The conference takes place in conjunction with the Second Annual Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Public Lecture.

The two-day event will observe and assess the significance of the Frederick Douglass Papers’ publication of the first scholarly edition of “The Heroic Slave” by Douglass (1818-95), a runaway slave who became an internationally recognized orator, reformer, journalist and diplomat.

“I am very excited that the forthcoming symposium will generate public attention for this underappreciated gem in early African American literature,” said John R. Kaufman-McKivigan, editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers. “Douglass’ achievements as an orator, autobiographer and political leader are well-remembered but not his important accomplishment as a fiction writer.”

“The Heroic Slave” was inspired by the actions of Madison Washington, a cook on a ship sailing to New Orleans. Washington led an 1841 slave rebellion on a ship that then sailed instead to the Bahamas, allowing 128 slaves to find freedom.

The Douglass Papers’ publication of the book received funding as part of a $52,060 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Conference presenters will provide special insights and tools to educators to help them better explain Douglass’ life and times to their modern-day students, Kaufman-McKivigan said.

The Oct. 9 conference sessions will take place at The Tower, 850 W. Michigan St., on the IUPUI campus. The Oct. 10 sessions, along with the Second Annual Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Public Lecture and Workshop, will meet at the Jewel Center, 3333 N. Illinois St.

Robert S. Levine, professor of English at the University of Maryland, will deliver the Oct. 9 keynote address, “Heroic Slaves: Madison Washington and ‘My Bondage and My Freedom,’” from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at The Tower.

V.P. Franklin, chair and professor of history and education at University of California Riverside, and editor of the Journal of African American History, will deliver the second conference keynote address, “The Power to Define: History, Scholarship, and Social Change,” from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Oct. 10 at Jewel Center.

Symposium sponsors include the IU School of Liberal Arts, the IUPUI departments of English and history, the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute, the IUPUI Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Indiana Humanities and the Africana Studies Program in the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI.

Additional conference details, including a complete syllabus, bios of speakers and online registration, are available on the conference website. For additional information, email douglass@iupui.edu.

National journal features papers from IUPUI Frederick Douglass conference and IUPUI professor as guest editor

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Frederick Douglass

INDIANAPOLIS — The latest issue of a leading scholarly journal about African American history includes the publication of several papers presented during an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis conference on the life and work of Frederick Douglass.

IUPUI professor John R. Kaufman-McKivigan served as guest editor for “Rediscovering the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” a special edition of the Journal of African American History.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History recently announced the publication of “Rediscovering the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” as the Winter/Spring 2014 volume of the association’s Journal of African American History.

Started in 1916 as the Journal of Negro History by Carter G. Woodson — who founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the observance of what is now known as Black History Month — the Journal of African American History is a peer-reviewed quarterly. The journal is considered the “jewel” of the association and the premier publication in its field.

“I am very pleased that the Journal of African American History has printed the papers delivered at a stimulating symposium held on our campus in October 2012,” Kaufman-McKivigan said. “It is my hope that these highly insightful essays will draw attention to this often overlooked gem of an autobiography by Douglass.”

Kaufman-McKivigan, the Mary O’Brien Gibson Professor of United States History in the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, is project director and editor of the Frederick Douglass Papers Edition, one of four scholarly publications housed in the Institute for American Thought, also part of the School of Liberal Arts. He specializes in antebellum America, Civil War studies, American ethnic history and American working-class history.

According to an Association for the Study of African American Life and History press release, the journal contributors are leading historians of 19th-century U.S. and African American history who offer insightful and well-documented analyses of “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass,” one of three autobiographical works.

A runaway slave turned abolitionist in antebellum America, Douglass became an influential writer and thinker of the Civil War and Reconstruction periods. The 2012 IUPUI conference celebrated the publication of the Frederick Douglass Papers’ first scholarly edition of Douglass’ final autobiography.

The special journal issue includes one article written by Kaufman-McKivigan, “Stalwart Douglass: ‘Life and Times’ as Political Manifesto.” He also wrote the journal’s introduction.

In addition to chapters on the Douglass autobiography, the special issue includes about 20 book reviews, as well as three essay reviews such as “12 Years a Slave: Narrative, History and Film.”

The Winter-Spring 2014 issue is available for purchase in hard copy and for course use through association publications director Karen May at kmay@asalh.net. A digital version soon will be available through ISTOR Current Journals.

Inaugural symposium, “The Life and Times of Madame C.J. Walker: The Historical Development of a Business Empire”

The Africana Studies Program at IUPUI and the Frederick Douglass Papers invites the public to attend the upcoming inaugural symposium that is part of the Madame C.J. Walker/Frederick Douglass Annual Lecture Series. This lecture series is designed to celebrate the brilliance, accomplishments and ingenuity of two African American global icons, namely Madame C.J. Walker who was the first African American female millionaire entrepreneur in America and Fredrick Douglass, a great orator, abolitionist, and political statesman. Our first public symposium will take place on Friday, December 6, 2013 at the Jewel Center from 8:00 AM until 4:30 PM. Please see the event flyer.

The theme of this year’s symposium is “The Life and Times of Madame C.J. Walker: The Historical Development of a Business Empire.” The events of the day are as follows:

  • Registration and continental breakfast is at 8:00 AM-9:00 AM
  • Welcome Remarks: 9:15 AM by Dr. Karen Dace, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
  • Welcome Remarks: 9:20 AM by Dr. Jack Kaufmann-McKivigan, Editor and Founder, The Frederick Douglass Papers, IUPUI
  • The first panel discussion starts around 9:30 AM on the theme of “The Life and Times of Madame C.J. Walker”
  • Our keynote speaker for noon is Dr. Juliet E.K. Walker, the foremost scholar and expert on Black business history in America and distinguished Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, who will discuss “African American Businesses in the Arc of History: Culture, Innovation and Black Business Success.”
  • Introduction of the Keynote Speaker: Dr. William Blomquist, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
  • At 2:00 PM, Professor Bessie House-Soremekun will make a research presentation on “Lessons Learned from History: The 10 Personality Characteristics of African American Entrepreneurs and How to Achieve Them.”

The event is free and open to the public. If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Dr. Bessie House Soremekun at beshouse@iupui.edu or cmorlan@iupui.edu.