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Academic Seminars


Publics and Peddlers:
The Newspaper in the Slave Narrative


Benjamin Fagan

(Visiting Scholar, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2011-12)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012, at 4:00 p.m.
Rare Book Room
Goddard Library
Clark University
Worcester, Massachusetts

Abstract: Newspapers covered the antebellum American landscape. Readers perused the news in urban reading rooms and country cabins, in groups and individually, out loud and in silence. Given their ubiquity, it is perhaps unsurprising that newspapers also found their way into the hands of enslaved Americans. Despite formal and informal prohibitions against any kind of reading, southern slaves obtained and read newspapers from across the country. Focusing on instances of newspaper reading in the narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, this presentation explores some of the ways in which enslaved Americans encountered and used the most important medium of the day.


Refreshments will be provided after the paper, which will be followed by a dutch-treat dinner in Worcester. If you plan to attend, please register by Monday, April 16.

For more information, please contact Paul Erickson, Director of Academic Programs, at perickson[at]

The Society regrets that it is unable to make refunds after that date.

Reservations are suggested (and deeply appreciated) by April 16 for attending the seminar. Reservations are required to attend the supper.