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Carla Peterson

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Emeritus Professor, English

(301) 405-3748

3220 Tawes Hall
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Research Expertise

African American/African Diaspora
American
Comparative Literature
Emeritus
Film Studies and Cultural Studies
Literary Theory

Publications

The Cultural Politics of Blood, 1500-1900

The essays collected here consider how conceptions of blood permeate discourses of human difference from 1500 to 1900 in England and continental Spain and in the Anglo- and Ibero-Americas.

Center for Literary and Comparative Studies | English

Lead: Ralph Robert Bauer, Kimberly Coles, Zita Nunes, Carla Peterson
Dates:

The essays collected here consider how conceptions of blood permeate discourses of human difference from 1500 to 1900 in England and continental Spain and in the Anglo- and Ibero-Americas. The authors explore how ideas about blood in science and literature have supported, at various points in history, fantasies of human embodiment and difference that serve to naturalize social hierarchies already in place. Situating the complex relationship between modern and pre-modern conceptions of race at the junction of early modern medicine, heredity, religion, and nation, The Cultural Politics of Blood challenges established accounts of the genealogy of modern racism.

Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City

Part detective tale, part social and cultural narrative, Black Gotham is Carla Peterson's riveting account of her quest to reconstruct the lives of her nineteenth-century ancestors.

English

Lead: Carla Peterson
Dates:

Part detective tale, part social and cultural narrative, Black Gothamis Carla Peterson's riveting account of her quest to reconstruct the lives of her nineteenth-century ancestors. As she shares their stories and those of their friends, neighbors, and business associates, she illuminates the greater history of African-American elites in New York City.

Black Gotham challenges many of the accepted "truths" about African-American history, including the assumption that the phrase "nineteenth-century black Americans" means enslaved people, that "New York state before the Civil War" refers to a place of freedom, and that a black elite did not exist until the twentieth century. Beginning her story in the 1820s, Peterson focuses on the pupils of the Mulberry Street School, the graduates of which went on to become eminent African-American leaders. She traces their political activities as well as their many achievements in trade, business, and the professions against the backdrop of the expansion of scientific racism, the trauma of the Civil War draft riots, and the rise of Jim Crow.

Told in a vivid, fast-paced style, Black Gotham is an important account of the rarely acknowledged achievements of nineteenth-century African Americans and brings to the forefront a vital yet forgotten part of American history and culture.

"Doers of the Word": African-American Women Speakers & Writers in the North (1830-1880)

Adapting a verse from the Epistle of James, "doers of the word,” 19th-century black women activists Sojourner Truth, Jarena Lee, & Frances E. W. Harper, among others, travelled throughout the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwestern regions of the U.S.

English

Lead: Carla Peterson
Dates:

Adapting a verse from the Epistle of James - "doers of the word" - nineteenth-century black women activists Sojourner Truth, Jarena Lee, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, among others, travelled throughout the Northeastern, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwestern regions of the United States. They preached, lectured, and wrote on issues of religious evangelicism, abolition, racial uplift, moral reform, temperance, and women's rights, thereby defining themselves as public intellectuals. In situating these women wtihin the emerging African-American urban communities of the free North, Doers of the Word provides an important counterweight to the vast scholarship on Southern slavery and argues that black "Civil Rights movements" cannot be seen as a purely modern phenomenon.