2024 A.S.W. Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography: Elizabeth McHenry, Toward a History of Black Print-Lecture 3
Black Print and the Pathways of Black Study
In the final lecture of this series, McHenry explores the rise of printing as a course of study in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the impact of these programs on education in the Black South. Her interest lies not only in the programs themselves, but also in the institutions that housed them, many of which became—specifically because of their “Printing Departments”— major centers for the production of Black literature and the distribution of Black print. If we were able to find and follow these publications, what might we learn about the uses of Black print and the rise of literary cultures in the rural South?
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.