Original articles by academic faculty, librarians and other researchers.


Archives of Freedom: Fugitive Science in Antebellum Black Newspapers

Fugitive Science: Empiricism and Freedom in Early African American Culture (NYU Press, 2017) traces a forgotten history of black resistance to the ascendency of racial science in the nineteenth century. Beginning in the late eighteenth century, naturalists, medical doctors, comparative anatomists, and a variety of gentleman scientists became increasingly interested in the construction of human taxonomies that justified regimes of settler colonialism and enslavement in the Americas. Enslaved and indigenous people were easy targets for human experiments because of their capture and confinement within spaces like the plantation, the slave ship, and later, the reservation. Their bodies were also required as embodied “proofs” of the racial hierarchies being imagined and constructed in the minds of white settlers. While the history of scientific and medical exploitation is a dark and unsettling story, one that poignantly illustrates the nature of racial subjection in the Americas more broadly, it was not without its opponents. Indeed, at every turn in the history of racialized experimentation, we are able to locate subjects who were resisting, challenging, and refusing the conditions of the their exploitation.

 

Archives of Freedom:  Fugitive Science in Antebellum Black Newspapers


Reverend Peter Thomas Stanford Pushes Back: The Politics of Antislavery in the Early Twentieth-Century Press

In the late 1890s, Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Institute’s principal and a former slave, was one of the most recognized black men on the planet.  His agenda for enabling jobs and education for post-Reconstruction black southerners also assuaged many white Americans’ anxieties about black economic competition and political empowerment. Another former slave turned educator shared Washington’s politics and vied with him for fame.  The Rev. Peter Thomas Stanford, M.A., M.D., D.D., L.L.D., and PhD, was hailed by the Sept. 12, 1903, Richmond Planet as “the next best known man in the work of educating his people to Booker T. Washington.”

Born in slavery in Virginia and raised briefly among Native Americans, Stanford became a writer and educator, an activist against lynching and racial violence, an institution-builder, and the first African American pastor of a church in Birmingham, England. His writings—autobiographies, a pamphlet, a textbook (three editions), speeches, sermons, and newspaper articles—demonstrate the evolution of African American print productions after the Reconstruction. Our forthcoming book on Stanford (UGA Press, 2020) revives the story of his transatlantic activism and cultural politics in Canada, England, and the United States.

 

Reverend Peter Thomas Stanford Pushes Back: The Politics of Antislavery in the Early Twentieth-Century Press


Finding Women in the Flash Press: From Entrepreneurs and Entertainers to Criminals and Consumers

 

American Underworld: The Flash Press offers rare glimpses of women's place and presence in nineteenth-century northeastern American cities. The digital collection is particularly rich in evidence of women as entrepreneurs, entertainers, and consumers of goods and cultural products. Cultural historians and literary scholars will also find fictional women across the database, with women appearing in serialized stories as sweethearts and wives, mothers, victims of crime, and working women.

It is well worth noting that the women represented in the pages of these newspapers are, overwhelmingly, white. Black women appear infrequently in news of criminal activities or as contemptible stereotypes of black womanhood. One brief but notable reference to a non-white woman is a small item in an 1835 edition of the Albany Microscope: Afong Moy, a Chinese woman who made a career out of speaking and performing before American audiences, was planning to write a book about the American people.

 

Finding Women in the Flash Press: From Entrepreneurs and Entertainers to Criminals and Consumers


Washington Goode and Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor: Race and the Death Penalty through Nineteenth-Century Media

What connects the 1849 execution of an obscure African American sailor with Billy Budd, Sailor, the enigmatic novella written by Herman Melville, one of the greatest American writers of the nineteenth century? Perhaps a great deal. Let’s begin with the sailor, a man by the name of Washington Goode, about whom little is known. As a very young man Goode served under Andrew Jackson during the Seminole War, and after the war, he served as a ship’s cook. By 1848 Goode was a resident of “The Black Sea,” a neighborhood frequented by sailors on leave, immigrants, and African Americans, and notorious as a hotbed of vice and violence. 1

Warren-cover-300px.jpg

On the fateful night of June 28, 1848, Goode was seen attacking his paramour Mary Anne Williams over her involvement with another man by the name of Thomas Harding. 2

Washington Goode and Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor: Race and the Death Penalty through Nineteenth-Century Media


The Cultural Work of Child’s Play: Examples from Three Picture Books in Readex Digital Collections

Recently digitized children’s books available in Readex collections include three that show the interplay between adult work and child’s play—opening up newly accessible vistas in areas such as visual culture and child studies. In my tenure of over thirty years at the American Antiquarian Society, I have either cataloged or supervised the cataloging of the books in the AAS Children’s Literature Collection.  This position has given me great control over the production of high-quality, detailed catalog records that provide rich metadata for author (many of them were women who did not sign their actual names to the books that they wrote), publisher (including many from towns outside of the major publishing centers of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia), illustrators (documenting the people who worked as artists in Antebellum America), provenance (providing access to elements like owner’s inscriptions and hand-colored illustrations), and subjects.  Subject analysis is particularly important in the effective cataloging of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century children’s books because many are chock full of contemporary societal attitudes toward issues like child labor, play, sex role, war, and slavery, but they generally have euphemistic titles that reveal very little about their contents.  These catalog access points provide the intellectual infrastructure for present and future generations of researchers to examine relevant children’s books in ways that would have been impossible before they were cataloged, and thanks to Readex, scanned copies of these books and their superb metadata are now widely available to researchers worldwide. 

The Cultural Work of Child’s Play: Examples from Three Picture Books in Readex Digital Collections


Rascalities and Notorieties: Salacious and Satirical Illustrations in the Flash Press of the Nineteenth Century

The early 1840s saw the rise of new underground newspapers, known collectively as the “flash press,” dedicated to the licentious appetites of the American urban male. Their readers saw these publications as satirical, irreverent and ribald; but to their opponents, they were obscene, vulgar and immoral. At first glance, they looked no different from the dozens of daily and weekly newspapers available in New York and Boston at the time, but the illustrations on the front page of nearly every copy were a tipoff that their content would not be ordinary. The pictures were often double entendre—sometimes less than double—and even when not blatantly sexual, they were always lively and eye-catching.

0-Wicked-Victorian-Boston-Cover.jpg

To one who chronicles American vice and crime, these rare nineteenth-century papers provide a missing link—a sympathetic view of the demimonde to balance the moralistic tone taken by mainstream publications of the time. These bawdy newspapers also offer a unique perspective for researchers in other scholarly areas such as urban life, political history and gender and women’s studies. Readex’s American Underworld: The Flash Press—the new digital collection created from the holdings of the American Antiquarian Society—contains a wide variety of titles with a surprising number of surviving issues. To find so many of these seamy urban newspapers available in one place, carefully digitized and easily searchable, is invaluable. The illustrations in these publications were often as important as the text and are as provocative to contemporary readers as they were to rakes and sporting men.

Rascalities and Notorieties: Salacious and Satirical Illustrations in the Flash Press of the Nineteenth Century


The Value of Digitized Newspaper Collections in Researching Neglected Women’s Writing: Two Newly Recovered Works by Ella Rhoads Higginson, First Poet Laureate of Washington State

In recent years, my scholarly efforts have been devoted to the recovery of Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862?-1940), the first prominent literary author from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Internationally celebrated for her writing, Higginson put the Pacific Northwest on the literary map. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest and the people who lived there when they read Higginson’s award-winning poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Higginson’s descriptions of the majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters of the Puget Sound presented the then-remote, unfamiliar Pacific Northwest to eager readers. However, by the time she died in 1940, both she and her captivating work were almost completely forgotten.

 

The Value of Digitized Newspaper Collections in Researching Neglected Women’s Writing: Two Newly Recovered Works by Ella Rhoads Higginson, First Poet Laureate of Washington State


The Role of Women in Early American Presidential Campaigns: Using Newspapers to Explore the Informal Politics of the Jacksonian Era

Jacksonian-era newspapers provide an opportunity to examine not only traditional politics, such as candidates’ perspectives on issues and party platforms, but also the more informal politics of the period. One such example of cultural politics, as these informal expressions are known, is women’s inclusion in presidential campaigns. While some scholars, such as Norma Basch, Elizabeth Varon, and Kirsten Wood, have looked extensively at women’s presence and involvement in the 1828 and the 1840 presidential elections, recently digitized newspapers offer fresh opportunities to explore this topic in those contests as well as less studied campaigns of the 1830s.

The Role of Women in Early American Presidential Campaigns: Using Newspapers to Explore the Informal Politics of the Jacksonian Era


Antebellum America’s Galvanizing Issue: The Tariff

For the past 50 years few Americans discussed tariffs. That has changed in the past two years. During his presidential campaign of 2016, Donald Trump hinted that he would impose tariffs in order to revitalize manufacturing in the United States. From the stump, Trump assailed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements. While economists recoiled over these pronouncements because of the harm they might cause domestic markets, they forgot that trade restrictions serve a political purpose as well. Trump’s call to impose restrictions on foreign goods entering the United States benefitted him in the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump’s pledge to support American manufacturing through new tariffs no doubt contributed to his upset victory in the industrial Midwest. His actions also reinforce the point that tariffs can influence domestic politics.

Antebellum America’s Galvanizing Issue: The Tariff


Black Freethought from Slavery to Civil Rights: Atheism and Agnosticism in African American Cultural and Intellectual Life

In his second autobiography, My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass asserted that throughout his life his religious views “pass[ed] over the whole scale and circle of belief and unbelief, from faith in the overruling Providence of God, to the blackest atheism.”[1] The point at which he was most skeptical and irreligious was during slavery but Douglass remained a non-traditional religious figure until his death in 1895. After the Civil War, for example, Douglass attributed the freedom of slaves to the work of men and women rather than the will of God and opposed the efforts of black ministers to use the Bible in public schools. He also embraced white freethinkers such as Robert Ingersoll and participated to a small extent in the late-nineteenth century freethought movement.

 

 

 

Black Freethought from Slavery to Civil Rights: Atheism and Agnosticism in African American Cultural and Intellectual Life


Pages

Welcome to The Readex Report

This online publication explores diverse aspects of digital historical collections and provides insight into web-based resources, including the Archive of Americana and Archive of International Studies.

Stay in Touch

Sign up to receive product news, special offers and invitations.

Recent Issues


Back to top