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Name: Charlotte James

PhD: American Studies

Thesis Title: 'Heroic Souls': The Memory of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth

 

Thesis Description:

My project is the first extensive study of the memory of 19th century African American female abolitionists. In placing this memory at the centre of a wider debate about the use of historical figures in the black freedom struggle, I demonstrate how notions of an "appropriate" black female leader have greatly manipulated representations of black women. My focus is on Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, the only two black female abolitionists to achieve iconic status in public memory. I show how writers, artists and activists shaped their images to both echo and challenge 20th and 21st century ideas on race and black resistance, especially non-violent resistance as the preferred mode of black activism and white male leadership as central to black liberation. Using an interdisciplinary methodology that draws on literary texts, sculptures, murals and artwork, I chart the evolution of their representations from the Reconstruction period to today. By contextualising their memory, this project places Tubman and Truth at the centre of an argument that shows how 20th century representations used the antislavery movement as a microcosm of the black freedom struggle.

 

Supervisors and Institutions:

Professor Peter Ling (University of Nottingham)

Associate Professor Stephanie Lewthwaite (University of Nottingham)

Professor Zoe Trodd (University of Nottingham)

 

Publications:

  • 'Our Own Tools:  Historical Antislavery Leadership Techniques’ with Zoe Troddin Kevin Bales, Using History ed. by Kevin Bales (University of California Press, forthcoming 2019)
  • ‘They don't play, or run, or shout... They're slaves’: The First Survey of Children's Literature on Modern Slavery, Journal of Modern Slavery, 4:2 (2018) 143 - 168 https://t.co/MzMV56xuqA
  • ‘Historians Against Slavery Conference Review’, US Studies Online, published 22nd December 2017 http://www.baas.ac.uk/usso/historians-against-slavery/ 

 

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

Conferences

  • 'Representations of Sojourner Truth and the Absence of ‘Ar’n’t I a Woman’, Society for the History of Women in the Americas (SHAW) Annual Conference, 6th July 2018
  • ‘Heroic Souls’: The Memory of Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth’, EBAAS Conference, 4th – 7th April 2018

  • ‘The Political Memory of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Black Female Abolitionists’, HOTCUS Winter Symposium, 17th February 2018 

  • ‘Sculptures, Murals and Artwork: The Antislavery Memory of Harriet Tubman’, Postgraduates Against Slavery Conference, 6th October 2017

Impact

  • 'Images of Modern Slavery', Hyson Green Cultural Festival, Nottingham, 9th May 2018
  • ‘American Slavery and Abolitionism’, American Studies Lecture Series, Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls, 5th December 2017
  • Archives Assistant for Feminist Archive North 2015 - worked with Jalna Hamner, a women's rights activist and member of the Women's Aid Federation, to organise her personal papers and create a history of WAF
  • Volunteer for The National Trust 2012 - 2013; roles included volunteer coordination, events organisation, archiving materials and research organisation 


Other Research Interests

  • Memory and Heritage
  • African American History
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Gender History and Feminisms
  • Historic and Modern Slavery
  • Children's Literature

 

 

 

University email address: aaxcj1@nottingham.ac.uk

Twitter: @charejames 

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