2024 A.S.W. Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography: Elizabeth McHenry, Toward a History of Black Print-Lecture 1
Black Bibliography, Here and Now
In the first lecture, Elizabeth McHenry (NYU) uses the arc of her own past scholarship to think critically about what it takes to reconstruct African American literary history. She considers how her research and writing has intersected with and been shaped by both early Black bibliographies and the principles of Black bibliographic practice. This provides a context for her to assess those areas of Black print culture that remain understudied, including the business of printing, the history of Black printers, and formats of Black literature that are easily and relatively inexpensively produced.
In this series of three lectures, Elizabeth McHenry turns her attention to several overlapping areas of Black print culture studies that have yet to be sufficiently explored: the business of printing, the history of Black printers, and the extension of African American literary and print culture. She is particularly attentive to the capacity of small printing offices to experiment with different print formats and the impact of the rapid rise in printing as a course of study at Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the South around the turn from the 19th to the 20th century. Scholars of African American literature have largely overlooked the products of student-run printing offices and small job printing businesses during this time, which included single-sheet publications, leaflets and pamphlets. These textual objects confound bibliographic interpretation, and the story of their production, distribution and use will be difficult to tell. But it is critical to our efforts to expand our knowledge of African American literary history and in particular, our understanding of literary and print cultures of the Black South.