Please join us for a conversation about race and society between two distinguished scholars of African American Studies. They will be discussing the influential work of a group of black artists to confront and refute scientific racism.
Traversing the archives of early African American literature, performance, and visual culture, Britt Rusert uncovers the dynamic experiments of a group of black writers, artists, and performers. Fugitive Science chronicles a little-known story about race and science in America. While the history of scientific racism in the nineteenth century has been well-documented, there was also a counter-movement of African Americans who worked to refute its claims.
Far from rejecting science, these figures were careful readers of antebellum science who linked diverse fields—from astronomy to physiology—to both on-the-ground activism and more speculative forms of knowledge creation. Routinely excluded from institutions of scientific learning and training, they transformed cultural spaces like the page, the stage, the parlor, and even the pulpit into laboratories of knowledge and experimentation. From the recovery of neglected figures like Robert Benjamin Lewis, Hosea Easton, and Sarah Mapps Douglass, to new accounts of Martin Delany, Henry Box Brown, and Frederick Douglass, Fugitive Science makes natural science central to how we understand the origins and development of African American literature and culture.
Britt Rusert is Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst. Fugitive Science is her first book. Ruha Benjamin is Assistant Professor in the Department African American Studies at Princeton. She is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier and Race After Technology (forthcoming).