"Clothes, Class and Travel": Rewriting Black Women's Domestic Tradition

My Great Wide Beautiful World Juanita Harrison's As part of the library's Black History month lecture series, Dr. Elsa Barkely Brown, professor of History at the University of Maryland College Park, will discuss her latest book, Clothes, Class and Travel: Rewriting Black Women's Domestic Tradition.  This book details the life and travel experiences of Juanita Harrison. In June 1927, a Mississippi-born working-class African-American woman boarded a ship in New Jersey intent on not returning to the United States until she had traveled around the world. Her ambition was bolstered by her belief that it was her skills as a domestic worker which would make this goal possible. Nine years later, My Great, Wide Beautiful World, the stories of Juanita Harrison's travel in 22 countries, made best-seller lists across the country. Disparaged by Harlem Renaissance intellectuals as the illiterate musings of a nobody, Harrison's travelogue soon passed from memory. Brown proposes that returning Harrison's story to the African-American literary canon rewrites the history of black internationalism and offers an exciting opportunity to reimagine the modern woman through a black working class lens.

Brown teaches in the Departments of History and Women's Studies and is an affiliate faculty in African-American Studies and American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park. She also directs the Visual Literacy Toolbox, a workshop for faculty. She is the co-editor of Black Women in U.S. History: An Historical Encyclopedia and of Major Problems in African-American History.  Her articles on African-American political culture have appeared in Signs, Feminist Studies, History Workshop and the Journal of Urban History. She has been awarded the A. Elizabeth Taylor Prize for best article in southern women's history, the Letitia Brown Memorial Publication Prize for best article in black women's history, the Martin Luther King Jr. Prize for best article in African-American history and the Anna Julia Cooper Prize for distinguished scholarship in black women's studies. Her most recent essay, published in the retrospective catalog Arabesque: The Art of Stephanie E. Pogue, explores the art of black women's self-portraits. Currently she is exploring the history of black domestic workers with a focus on the ways in which the labor conditions of specific women shaped the conditions of their social and political activism.

This lecture will be held in the Black Studies Division, room 310, at 1 p.m. For more information, please call 202-727-1261.