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On the Underground Railroad | 2022 Howard S. Schwartz Memorial Annual Lecture Series

March 31 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm CDT

Schwartz lecture flyer

Presented by Professor Steven Nelson, Dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Lecture Abstract

Based on my nearly 3,000 mile roadtrip from Mobile, Alabama to St. Catharines, Ontario during summer 2009, this talk explores Underground Railroad locales and lore, extant escape narratives, archives, art, literature, and interviews. Sometimes with intellectual distance; often without it, this book, intended for both an academic and a popular audience, is part art historical treatise, part historical study, part literary work, part travelogue, and part memoir. Residing in the murkiness of fact, fiction and the making of myth, this project considers the import of the Underground Railroad as the foundation of the stories we tell to others and its impact in narratives we create about ourselves. My goal is neither to correct the record nor to reside in fantasy. It is rather to explore the ways in which we ascribe meaning to the Underground Railroad, one of the most American stories that exists, both its general nature and its particularities, as a means to foreground its critical place in the ongoing lives of the United States.


3650 Humanities
455 North Park Street
Madison, 53706
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Department of Art History
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