Open Menu

Hannah Jeffery

Studying for a PhD in American Studies

Thesis Title

  • Walls of Remembrance: Abolitionist Memory in a Long Black Power Imagination

“The Black Power movement represents a largely unchronicled epic in American history,” argues historian Peniel E. Joseph in his article “Rethinking the Black Power Era. This academic oversight catalysed a wave of Black Power studies in the 2000s, with scholars like Joseph and Paul Gardullo altering perceptions of the movement by expanding it from the parameters of the 1960s. This scholarship reconsiders the temporal, chronological and spatial frameworks that define the era, and my PhD will join this repertoire of Black Power scholarship by proposing the existence of a Long Black Power Movement. I argue that artists of the 1930s and 1940s, and Black Power supporters of the 1960s and 1970s, use a memory of abolitionism in murals and public art to express and further the goal of gaining radical black self-determination. By resituating the Black Power Movement, I expose its emergence in the collective memory and visual culture of the 1930s and 1940s when radical 19th century anti-slavery figures like Nathaniel Turner, John Brown, Denmark Vesey, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass emerge in murals and artwork by John Thomas Biggers, Charles White, Aaron Douglas and Hale Woodruff. I also chart the visual evolution and uses of these figures in 1960/70s and contemporary murals.

Whilst current scholarship attempts to reclaim the Black Power Movement in alternate decades, none thus far have explored its resurfacing in the 1930s and 1940s through the use of antislavery images and memory through murals of the Harlem Renaissance and WPA. I therefore chart the evolution of a Long Black Power Movement by arguing that artists of the 1930s and 1940s, and Black Power advocates of the 1960s and 1970s, use a memory of abolitionism to express and further their goal of gaining black self-determination – something that is also traceable in contemporary artwork of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Expertise

Theme

Publications

Conferences

  • ‘“Unarmed People Are Slaves’: Using 19th Century Abolitionist Aesthetics in the 1960s Radical Movement.” Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, Hull, October 16-17, 2015

Public Engagement Activities

  • Digital Archive: Mapping Anti-Slavery Murals: https://www.mapbox.com/editor/?id=hanjeffers.p1mje5fp#data
    • Created world’s first digital archive that traces the distribution of anti-slavery and Black Power murals across the U.S. Led to the archive being exhibited in at the African American Museum in Boston
  • “Picturing Frederick Douglass” Exhibition, the African American Museum, Boston, June 2016- June 2017
    • Exhibition of the digital archive to be housed and displayed at the African American museum in Boston
    • Created interactive touch screen displays for visitors to navigate through Douglass murals around the U.S., providing contextual information on each mural
  • Co-director of Draw for the Future Mural, Nottingham, Feb-June 2016
    • Assisted in the creation of Nottingham’s first Black History Mural in Forest Fields/Hyson Green
    • Advised muralist and NAE members of staff on history of community mural movements. Established a relationship with New York City-focused muralists based on the project
    • Ran workshop session with young people from the community (ages 15-21) to inspire and educate on the purpose of murals
  • Curator of Utopia Fair Exhibition at Somerset House, London, June 2016
    • Co-curated an pop-up exhibition at Somerset House’s Utopia Fair in London
    • Liaised with exhibition organisers, printers, and muralist to create various panels displaying a comprehensive history of murals; a timeline of the creation of Nottingham’s mural; and conceptual panels concerning the meaning of ‘Utopia’
  • International Human Rights Law School Seminar at Nottingham Trent, Nottingham, UK, March 2015
    • Gave two-hour seminar to third year Law students at Nottingham Trent University on the topic of African American civil rights and the Ferguson unrest, and contemporary uses of historical protest strategies
    • Discussed possibilities of postgraduate study available to students as well as talking through application processes for Masters and PhD research
  • Conference Organiser for The October Dialogues, Nottingham, October 2015
    • Assisted in planning and organisation of Europe’s first Black Lives Matter Conference for Black History Month, 2015. Led to the creation of Europe’s first Black Lives Matter chapter
    • Live tweeted and photographed the twelve-hour event. Successful in trending the conference hashtag ‘#BlackLivesMatterUK’ fifth in the UK

Other Networks