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Edlie Wong

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Professor, English

(301)-405-3809

2120A Tawes (inside CLCS suite)
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Research Expertise

African American/African Diaspora
American
Transatlantic Studies

Curriculum Vitae

Edlie Wong is the author of Racial Reconstruction: Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship (NYU Press, 2015) and Neither Fugitive nor Free: Atlantic Slavery, Freedom Suits, and the Legal Culture of Travel (NYU Press, 2009). She is also co-editor of a scholarly edition of George Lippard's novella, The Killers (UPenn Press, 2014). Currently, she is at work on a new project entitled, Empire and the Black Pacific: A Record of the Darker Races.

Her work has also appeared in American Literary History, Social Text, American Literature, African American Review, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Prose Studies, in anthologies, including The Haitian Revolution and the Early United States, Routledge Research Companion to Law and Humanities in Nineteenth Century America, Oxford History of the Novel in English, American Literary Geographies, and The Image and the Witness, and online at openDemocracy.

She is the recipient of fellowships from the NEH and Mellon Foundation and serves as the President of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (2020-2022). Prior to joining Maryland in 2010, she was an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her teaching and research interests include nineteenth-century American, African American, and Asian American literatures, law and literature, the black Atlantic, critical race studies, and gender studies.

 

Publications

“An Unexpected Direction: Pauline Hopkins, S.E.F.C.C. Hamedoe, and the ‘Dark Races of the Twentieth Century'"

Featured in American Literary History

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:

American Literary History 32.4 (Winter 2020): 723-754.

Abstract

This essay mines the earliest and most influential of African American literary magazines, the Boston-based Colored American Magazine (CAM) (1900–09), and its southern rival, the Atlanta-based Voice of the Negro (1904–07), to investigate how black writers and activists addressed the links between US race relations, settler colonialism, and empire in the Pacific. Spanning these two periodicals, Pauline Hopkins’s work as an editor and contributor grappled with the question of how to represent, engage, and position Black Americans in a globalizing world that was at once becoming more vast, heterogeneous, and integrated. Race remained a powerful structuring principle, yet it accrued dynamic new meanings in the era of new imperialism. Along the way, the essay investigates an unexplored facet of Hopkins’s authorship and compositional style. It speculates that Hopkins may have published under another as yet unattributed pen name. The enigmatic S. E. F. C. C. Hamedoe was one of the most significant of regular CAM contributors. Before disappearing from print history, Hamedoe published a four-year-long series that mapped the political contours of the emerging Global South, crisscrossing continents and oceans. The extensive connections between Hamedoe’s writings and Hopkins’s final known completed series beg the question of whether they were one and the same.

An Unexpected Direction: Pauline Hopkins, S.E.F.C.C. Hamedoe, and the ‘Dark Races of the Twentieth Century'"

"Storytelling and the Comparative Study of Atlantic Slavery and Freedom."

This article investigates the possibilities of storytelling and black Atlantic literature in forging new critical approaches to the archive of New World Asian indenture.

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:
It also emphasizes the significance of the comparative study of bonded labor to our understanding of “the Atlantic.” It explores forms of historical storytelling across a broad range of cultural materials, from Chinese American activist Wong Chin Foo's 1874 “fugitive coolie” narrative and bilingual Spanish-Chinese labor contracts to the novels of contemporary writers such as Cristina García, Amitav Ghosh, Toni Morrison, and Patricia Powell. What does it mean to place the archives of New World slavery and Asian indenture in conversation or in juxtaposition, especially when this counterpoint does not result in a structure of complementarity?

Racial Reconstruction: Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship

The end of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade triggered wide-scale labor shortages across the U.S. and Caribbean. Planters looked to China as a source for labor replenishment, importing indentured laborers in what became known as “coolieism.”

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:
The end of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade triggered wide-scale labor shortages across the U.S. and Caribbean. Planters looked to China as a source for labor replenishment, importing indentured laborers in what became known as “coolieism.” From heated Senate floor debates to Supreme Court test cases brought by Chinese activists, public anxieties over major shifts in the U.S. industrial landscape and class relations became displaced onto the figure of the Chinese labor immigrant who struggled for inclusion at a time when black freedmen were fighting to redefine citizenship.
 
Racial Reconstruction demonstrates that U.S. racial formations should be studied in different registers and through comparative and transpacific approaches. It draws on political cartoons, immigration case files, plantation diaries, and sensationalized invasion fiction to explore the radical reconstruction of U.S. citizenship, race and labor relations, and imperial geopolitics that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act, America’s first racialized immigration ban. By charting the complex circulation of people, property, and print from the Pacific Rim to the Black Atlantic, Racial Reconstruction sheds new light on comparative racialization in America, and illuminates how slavery and Reconstruction influenced the histories of Chinese immigration to the West.

The Killers: A Narrative of Real Life in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, the 1840s: a corrupt banker disowns his dissolute son, who then reappears as a hardened smuggler in the contraband slave trade.

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Lead: Edlie Wong
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PHILADELPHIA, the 1840s: a corrupt banker disowns his dissolute son, who then reappears as a hardened smuggler in the contraband slave trade. Another son, hidden from his father since birth and condemned as a former felon, falls in with a ferocious street gang led by his elder brother and his revenge-hungry comrade from Cuba. His adopted sister, a beautiful actress, is kidnapped, and her remorseful black captor becomes her savior as his tavern is engulfed in flames. Vendetta, gang violence, racial tensions, and international intrigue collide in an explosive novella based on the events leading up to an infamous 1849 Philadelphia race riot. The Killers takes the reader on a fast-paced journey from the hallowed halls of academia at Yale College to the dismal solitary cells of Eastern State Penitentiary and through southwest Philadelphia's community of free African Americans. Though the book's violence was ignited by the particulars of Philadelphia life and politics, the flames were fanned by nationwide anxieties about race, labor, immigration, and sexuality that emerged in the young republic.

Penned by fiery novelist, labor activist, and reformer George Lippard (1822-1854) and first serialized in 1849, The Killers was the work of a wildly popular writer who outsold Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne in his lifetime. Long out of print, the novella now appears in an edition supplemented with a brief biography of the author, an untangling of the book's complex textual history, and excerpts from related contemporaneous publications. Editors Matt Cohen and Edlie L. Wong set the scene of an antebellum Philadelphia rife with racial and class divisions, implicated in the international slave trade, and immersed in Cuban annexation schemes to frame this compact and compelling tale.

Serving up in a short form the same heady mix of sensational narrative, local color, and impassioned politics found in Lippard's sprawling The Quaker City, or The Monks of Monks Hall, The Killers is here brought back to lurid life.

“In a Future Tense: Immigration Law, Counterfactual Histories, and Chinese Invasion Fiction”

During the final weeks of the November 2010 elections, in which Republican candidates and the Tea Party ousted long-term Democrats to regain the House majority, a slick, 60-second television advertisement entitled “Chinese Professor” dramatizing the peril

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:
It aired on CNN, FoxNews, AMC, and CNBC and also on local broadcast stations in states with key gubernatorial and senate races, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. A few major networks, including ABC, A&E, and the History Channel, declined to air the advertisement, claiming it to be too controversial. It ran again in January and March 2011 and in the month before the 2012 presidential election. Since its original broadcast, “Chinese Professor” has become the subject of much heated debate, praise, and parody.

“Comparative Racialization, Immigration Law, and James Williams's Life and Adventures"

Wong’s essay investigates James Williams’s largely forgotten postbellum slave narrative, The Life and Adventures of James Williams, A Fugitive Slave (1873) to chart the various constellations of racial formations emerging from the politics and cultures of

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:
Williams’s once-popular autobiography chronicling his experiences as a fugitive slave and California gold miner knits together stories from the Underground Railroad with firsthand observations on Chinese labor migration and Indian resettlement in the West. This essay reads Williams’s narrative alongside the key legal and political contexts that gave its narrative shape (and to which Williams addressed his text), including California Governor John Bigler’s anti-coolieism campaign (1852), the California Supreme Court ruling in People v. Hall (1854), and the widely publicized Modoc War (1872–73). It builds upon the analytics for articulating racial difference honed in US race and ethnic studies to help illuminate Williams’s literary efforts to formulate an early politics of comparative racialization.

“‘Freedom with a Vengeance’: Choosing Kin in Antislavery Literature and Law.”

Wong's essay charts the legal controversies over slaves brought into New England after Massachusetts Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw's forceful application of the celebrated British civil suit, Somerset v. Stewart (1772), in the landmark case of the slave girl

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Lead: Edlie Wong
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It explores material that has been largely left out of the antislavery story: the cases brought by abolitionists to free slaves who had traveled with their masters into free territory. Wong's essay reconstructs the records of these cases from popular literature, newsprint, and legal pamphlets to explore what recent literary and historical scholarship has largely overlooked. Harriet and John S. Jacobs, Maria Weston Chapman, Sojourner Truth, and Ellis Gray Loring appear alongside a number of largely unknown slave attendants in an essay that explores the complex ways legal discourses circulating in newsprint constituted the agency and subjectivity of slaves who petitioned Northern courts for freedom (in counterdistinction from the criminal will of the fugitive).

“Anti-Slavery Cosmopolitanism in the Black Atlantic.”

British merchant vessels plying the waters of these lucrative Atlantic economies were often crewed by those colonial subjects whom they once held as commodities.

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Lead: Edlie Wong
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Atlantic scholarship – most notably Paul Gilroy's Black Atlantic – has looked to the chronotope of the seafaring ship in its efforts to chart the cosmopolitan contours of the nineteenth century. For Gilroy, the ship gives figurative expression to a cultural and political remapping of modern racial formations that transcends the “boundaries and integrity of modern nation states” (4). Ships call to mind both the Middle Passage and the mercantile routes that joined the Americas with Europe, Africa, and the plantation zones of the Caribbean. For Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, black maritime circulation thus constituted one aspect of the “many-headed hydra” that unsettled the political sovereignty of European nation-states in the Atlantic world (31).

Neither Fugitive Nor Free: Atlantic Slavery, Freedom Suits, and the Legal Culture of Travel

Part of the American Literatures Initiative Series.

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:

Professor Edlie L. Wong contends that slavery and its logic of property had a profound effect on the notion of travel and freedom in the Atlantic World. British and American slaveholders traveled with the assumption that their right to free mobility extended to their enslaved servants. But slaves are rarely mentioned in travel accounts of the time that romanticized mobility as a unique expression of individual freedom and autonomy.Recuperating the untold narratives of slaves who accompanied their masters on trips to free territories, Professor Wong argues that these journeys between free and enslaved territories challenge the cultural logic of slavery and freedom and offer an alternative view of history to the already established genres of abolitionist and fugitive slave narratives. A volume in the new series America and the Long 19th Century.

Neither Fugitive nor Free draws on the freedom suit as recorded in the press and court documents to offer a critically and historically engaged understanding of the freedom celebrated in the literary and cultural histories of transatlantic abolitionism. Freedom suits involved those enslaved valets, nurses, and maids who accompanied slaveholders onto free soil. Once brought into a free jurisdiction, these attendants became informally free, even if they were taken back to a slave jurisdiction—at least according to abolitionists and the enslaved themselves. In order to secure their freedom formally, slave attendants or others on their behalf had to bring suit in a court of law.

“‘Neither is Memory Always Thus Avenging’: Longing for Kinship in Julia C. Collins’s Curse of Caste and the Christian Recorder."

From African American Review 40.4 (2006): 687-704.

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Lead: Edlie Wong
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Published on behalf of African American Review (St. Louis University)

“‘Turned Out of Doors’: Voluntary Return and Captive Agency in the Case of Mary Prince.”

This article examines Mary Prince's 1831 account of her life in colonial slavery in order to ascertain her position as West Indian “slave” in England and her contingent status as a “free British subject” as long as she remained immobilized and bound to a

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Lead: Edlie Wong
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Prince's representation of her “captivity” in England poses crucial questions as to whether she can simultaneously claim to be a free and West Indian subject. In thus situating Prince's narrative, a more complex and multifaceted discussion of gender, home, freedom, and agency emerges from her struggles to assert her autonomy from her master and return to Antigua as a free woman.

Service & Outreach

President of C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists

C19: Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists

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Lead: Edlie Wong
Dates:

The first academic organization dedicated to nineteenth-century American literary studies, C19 was co-founded by CALS faculty members Hester Blum, Chris Castiglia, and Sean Goudie, who currently serve on the C19 Advisory Board.

President: 2020-2022