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How did Black authors get their writing into print? Which publishers accepted their work? Which printing firms manufactured these books or periodicals—using what technologies and techniques? The discipline of descriptive bibliography helps answer these questions; its methods detail the physical components, identify the technological processes, and enumerate editions, giving us an account of every known instance of a literary work.
The Black Bibliography Project (BBP) aims to revive and transform descriptive bibliography—the systematic description of print materials as physical objects—for African American and Black Diaspora literary studies. The project's goal is to create a digital database whose capacities can reveal the dynamic social formations and aesthetic practices that are specific to Black print culture in the U.S. and beyond. By tapping the explanatory potential of digital technologies (specifically, the revolutionary metadata approach called “Linked Data”), the BBP aims to build an electronic database whose networking capacities can reveal the social formations and aesthetic practices that are specific to Black print culture in the U.S. and across the Black Diaspora.
Jacqueline Goldsby is a Professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale University. She currently chairs Yale’s Department of African American Studies. She is the author of the prizewinning A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and other articles about African American literature and book history during the long century of Jim Crow segregation, from 1865-1965. In 2015, she edited the Norton Critical Edition of James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. And she’s currently at work finishing Writing from the Lower Frequencies: African American Literature and Its Mid-Century Moment.
The research required to launch Writing from the Lower Frequencies led Goldsby to design and direct “Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives.” She managed that project from 2005-2010, while she taught at the University of Chicago. “Mapping the Stacks” helped transform the practice of archival recovery and description in Chicago and across the U.S, as the project became the model for the Council on Library and Information Resources’ $27.4 million grant program, “Cataloguing Hidden Collections and Archives” (2008-14).
Meredith McGill is Professor of English at Rutgers University and the 2019-20 Beinecke Distinguished Fellow in the Humanities at Yale University. She is the author of American Literature and the Culture of Reprinting, 1834–1853 (2003; 2008), a study of nineteenth-century American resistance to tight control over intellectual property. She is the editor of two collections of essays: The Traffic in Poems: Nineteenth-Century Poetry and Transatlantic Exchange (2008), in which a number of scholars model ways of understanding nineteenth-century poetry within a transatlantic framework, and Taking Liberties with the Author (2013), a selection of essays from the English Institute that explore the persistence of the author as a shaping force in literary criticism. In addition to essays on nineteenth-century poetry and poetics, she has published widely on intellectual property, authorship, and the history of the book. She has written two essays that reflect on the place of bibliography in the contemporary disciplinary division of knowledge: “Echocriticism: Repetition and the Order of Texts” (American Literature 88:1) and “Literary History, Book History, and Media Studies” in Hester Blum, ed. Turns of Event). She served as President of C19: The Society of Nineteenth Century Americanists from 2018-2020.
Brent Hayes Edwards is the Peng Family Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and the Director of the Scholars-in-Residence Program at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. His most recent book is the co-written autobiography of composer Henry Threadgill, Easily Slip into Another World: A Life in Music (Knopf, 2023). For 2022-23, Edwards is one of the inaugural Ford Foundation Scholars in Residence at MoMA.
This event is part of our Justice Forum series, which provides opportunities for community discussion of arts and ideas on justice, equality, and mass incarceration.
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