“Workers + Warriors:” Black Acts and Arts of Radicalism, Revolution, and Resistance, Past, Present, and Future

Bernier, Celeste-Marie and Willson, Nicole Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-5935-9075 (2020) “Workers + Warriors:” Black Acts and Arts of Radicalism, Revolution, and Resistance, Past, Present, and Future. Kalfou, 7 (1). ISSN 2151-4712

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.15367/kf.v7i1.294


For this special issue, we bring together an array of interdisciplinary international scholars who are working across the fields of Black studies, African diasporic studies, slavery studies, American studies, and memory studies. They debate, destabilize, interrogate, and reshape widely known and accepted methodologies within literary studies, art history, visual culture, history, intellectual history, politics, sociology, and material and print cultures in order to do justice to the hidden histories, untold narratives, and buried memories of African diasporic freedom struggles over the centuries. This collection is the result of a symposium that we held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2018 as part of a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council project titled Our Bondage and Our Freedom: Struggles for Liberty in the Lives and Works of Frederick Douglass and His Family (1818–1920). The inspiration for this project, which we launched in 2018 on the two-hundredth anniversary of Frederick Douglass’s birth, emerged from a determination to revisit his legendary life and pioneering works. A world-renowned freedom fighter, inspirational social justice campaigner, mythologized liberator, exemplary philosopher, breathtaking orator, and beautiful writer, Douglass dedicated his life to the fight for Black liberation by any and every means necessary. As he repeatedly maintained in the motto he endorsed for his radical newspaper, the North Star, “Right is of no sex—Truth is of no color—God is the Father of us all, and we are brethren.”

Through engaging with the narratives, poetry, speeches, songs, oral testimonies, correspondence, essays, photography, drawings, paintings, and sculptures produced by and/or representing Douglass and his family members, it becomes newly possible to do justice to the psychological, imaginative, and emotional realities of iconic and unknown Black lives as lived during slavery and into the post-emancipation era. Two hundred years after Douglass’s birth, in the era of Black Lives Matter, there can be no doubt that the Douglass we need now is no representative self-made man but a fallible, mortal individual. The onus is on academics, archivists, artists, and activists to harness every intellectual tool available in order to tell the stories not only of Black women, children, and men living in slavery but of Black women, children, and men experiencing the illusory freedoms of the post-emancipation era. For Douglass’s rallying cry “My Bondage and My Freedom” it is possible to read “Our Bondage and Our Freedom.

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