The Work Before Us: Frances Harper and Black Reconstruction in New Orleans

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 - 6:00pm
Gallier House
1132 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
Join Dr. Johnson at the July Gallier Gathering as she discusses Reconstruction-era New Orleans and 19th-century African American author Frances Harper. About this Event Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was the most prolific African American writer of the nineteenth century. She wrote and published several collections of poetry, popular short fiction, and one of the first African American novels, Iola Leroy (1892). A leading abolitionist orator and suffragist, Harper’s activism infused her writings about the experiences of the enslaved, exploited, disenfranchised, and discriminated. After the Civil War, Frances Harper was actively engaged in the process of reconstructing the South and the nation when she began an extensive lecture tour to assess the political conditions unfolding in the region and to address social problems affecting African Americans that would prevent them from achieving full citizenship. Her arrival in New Orleans in spring 1871 marks a pivotal moment in her career as an activist and writer. In this talk, Sherita L. Johnson tracks Harper’s lecture tour to the Crescent City, as Harper was invited to address the politics of race and as she became involved in local matters, bringing them to a national audience. Newspapers kept readers informed about Harper’s extensive travels given her celebrity status as the leading African American woman writer and orator of civil rights and suffrage. Johnson will discuss just how the work of Reconstruction began by Frances Harper took place among the people, on the podium, and in the press. Sherita L. Johnson is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she concentrates on nineteenth-century African American literature, Southern literature, and cultural studies. The author of Black Women in New South Literature and Culture (Routledge, 2010), her current projects include tracking Frederick Douglass’ activism in the colored conventions movement and examining the works of African American writers during the Reconstruction era. Since 2011, Johnson has served as the Director of the Center for Black Studies at the University of Southern Mississippi. This event is made possible by funding from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Funding for 2021 Rebirth grants has been administered by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) and provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the NEH Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) initiative. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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