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2-3 September, Historically free African Americans in visual and spatial representation

Workshop at the Käte Hamburger Research Centre global dis:connect, LMU Munich, organised by Andrea Frohne (Fellow Alumna, Käte Hamburger Research Centre and Professor, Ohio University)


This workshop focuses on free African American people through art, visual culture and studies of space. It investigates circumstances of freedom and the disconnection from slavery prior to the Civil War, representations of free people of colour and descendants in visual culture and studies of space into the 21st century, and 17th and 18th-century White European immigration into Black America.

Presentations may focus on artworks made by free people of colour, such as sculptor Edmonia Lewis, portrait photographer J.P. Ball, landscape artist Robert S. Duncanson, and painters Henry Ossawa Turner and Edward Mitchell Bannister. How did their status as free play a role in their artistic careers or impact the content of their artworks? Papers may also focus on mobility and migration into free Black settlements across the United States and Canada. Topics include visual and spatial analyses of Black churches and schools, ownership of property shown in land surveys, rural roads named after free families of colour, or cemeteries.

With our location in Germany for the workshop, we seek to explore European migration into enslaving territories. What are the through lines of White families who become Black in the new world? They may have become enslavers who bore liberated children of colour. Or they may be indentured servants who bore free children of colour. Some free people of colour in the United States descended from German, British, Irish and Scottish forebears. What are the global ramifications of such disrupted, disconnected genealogies?

Overall, the workshop seeks to contribute new scholarship to the underrecognised subject of free African Americans and descendant populations in visual and spatial representation.


The deadline for presentation proposals is 20 April, 2024.

Please click here for the call for papers.

More detailed information on the programme will be provided shortly.