Local Americanists: Janet Neary, "'Speculative Life': Black Literature, Reconstruction, and California's Prospects"

December 4, 2019
2:30 - 4:00 PM
3136 Tawes Hall

Janet Neary will join us on Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 2:30 p.m. in Tawes 3136 to give a talk entitled "'Speculative Life': Black Literature, Reconstruction, and California's Prospects."

In her groundbreaking 1918 history, Negro Trail-Blazers of California, Delilah Beasely argued that black miners came to California during the Gold Rush to extract something other than material wealth from the ground. Taking up Beasley’s consideration of the extractive possibilities of the land in relation to the abstract governing of its laws, this talk tracks how the material exigencies of the California Gold Rush provided a novel, temporal structure for the expansion of African American Civil Rights in the West during the 1850s and the Reconstruction period. Examining writings by African American Western emigrants, this talk argues that the extractive and speculative economy of the West conditioned new legal possibilities and challenges for African Americans, who were simultaneously considered equal laborers in this new economy and a threat to a U.S. nation that maintained a deep ambivalence about black citizenship.

Norrell Edwards (PhD, University of Maryland) will serve as respondent for this talk. 


For more information contact: Robert S. Levine (rlevine@umd.edu)