Thesis Topic and Faculty Interviews
Recently I became interested in a group of historians who created an organization to fight modern day slavery called Historians Against Slavery. Their motto is “using history to make slavery history.” Like some of the historians involved in this group I would like to explore connections between the abolition movement of the 1800’s to that of the current fight against slavery. I spoke with Dr. Quigley, Dr. Kutz, and Dr. Heaton this past week to discuss their interests and my topic. Dr. Heaton offered several reading recommendations related to the abolition movement of the 19th century. He also suggested that I not limit my inquiry strictly to the United States and expand it to include abolition in Africa and Europe and their connection to the abolition of slavery. Dr. Kutz’s work focuses primarily on Abraham Lincoln but she had several suggestions for me regarding sex trafficking and abolition narratives. She also thought focusing on the use and depiction of women and children by both abolition groups would be interesting and newspapers and images would offer a good resource base for such a project. Dr. Quigley was the one who introduced me to the HAS group and is very familiar with my topic. He Gave me a list of journal articles and books to look at that will help me find a question to answer and explain why it is important. He liked the idea of abolition narratives and thought using testimonies would be helpful to my research. Like Dr. Kutz he believed newspapers and imagery provide a rich resource base. He also suggested I speak with someone from the Religion and Culture department about my topic. All three professors gave me very good advice about my topic and they were also very interested in seeing what becomes of the project.
Abolition is a big topic! So I’ll be interested to see how you narrow the focus to make the project manageable. When you say “explore connections” are you thinking you want to look at how present-day activist groups use the past in their rhetoric? Or are you more interested in what the 19th century abolitionists were up to? (Or something entirely different? Did I miss the point?)
Either way, a book you might want to look at is by Richard Bell, on the history of suicide — I know it seems far from your topic but he does a really good job of exploring abolitionist use of suicide to condemn slavery and looks at both white and Af-Am abolitionists.