Please join us for the third Gillett G. Griffin Memorial Lecture
A Princeton University Library lecture
Delivered by author Dr. Nazera Sadiq Wright
Associate Professor of English and African American and Africana Studies, University of Kentucky
“Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century”
A reception will follow in the corridor outside the auditorium.
Sponsored by the Friends of the Princeton University Library
Free and open to the public
About the author
About the lecture
Scholars such as Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Ellen Gruber Garvey, and Jasmine Nichole Cobb explore how nineteenth-century scrapbooks and friendship albums circulated among free black women in the North to showcase their middle class status and close networks. However, little is known about how black girls participated in this sentimental practice. Nazera will explore the often un-catalogued signatures and inscriptions written in two autograph albums from the second half of the nineteenth century that were owned by two black girls who were sisters. Miranda and Sallie Venning were raised in an elite African American Philadelphian family in the 1880’s. Their autograph albums are archived at the Library Company of Philadelphia in the Stevens – Cogdell – Sanders– Venning Collection. Those who signed the Venning albums upheld the polished graces of elegant handwriting, proper penmanship, and correct spelling. While the signatures convey refinement and discipline, they also reveal evidence of intimate relationships. People touched each album's gilded cover, flipped through its pages, read messages from others, and decided carefully on their own written expressions. Thus, the Venning autograph albums help us think in recuperative, productive ways about touch and intimacy among black girls in the 1880’s that move beyond associations of touch with acts of sexualized violence in the antebellum era.
Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Library Communications Manager