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Critical Race Conversations /

Critical Race Conversations: Race in the American South

Moderated by Heather Miyano Kopelson, who is joined by Robbie Ethridge, Miles Grier, and Elizabeth Ellis

Originally recorded on February 18, 2021

Program Overview

This Critical Race Conversation is associated with the Folger Institute’s Consortium.

Did the American South have a Renaissance? How did “race” signify in it, and with what lasting repercussions? Join scholars of anthropology, literature, and history for this “Critical Race Conversation” as they consider the early modern contours of the American South by re-thinking its temporal and geographical boundaries. They will explore the multiple meanings of the American South through the prisms of race, slavery, and indigeneity in the centuries surrounding the arrival of Europeans and Africans in the Americas, especially the specific ways that members of Indigenous, European, and African cultures interacted with each other and fundamentally reshaped their respective world views in light of often painful realities that still resonate today.

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About the Speakers

Dr. Heather Miyano Kopelson is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama and is also affiliated with the Gender and Race Studies Department. She is the author of Faithful Bodies: Performing Race and Religion in the Puritan Atlantic (2014) and is currently writing a book with the working title, “Speaking Objects: Indigenous Women and the Materials of Dance in the Americas, 1500-1700.”

Dr. Robbie Ethridge is professor of anthropology at the University of Mississippi with expertise in historical anthropology and environmental anthropology, who focuses on the ethnohistory of Native peoples of the Southern United States. Her current research engages with the transformation of the pre-contact Mississippian chiefdoms following the European invasion by working to reconstruct the late Mississippian world and then following each instance of collapse and restructuring across the American South, during the first 150 years of colonization set within a broad regional framework. Another monograph explored the social, environmental, and economic history of the Creek Indians during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Professor Ethridge is a founding editor of the journal Native South and the former North American editor for the journal Ethnohistory.

Dr. Miles Grier is assistant professor of English at Queens College of The City University of New York. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Inkface: Othello and the Formation of White Interpretive Community, 1604-1855 that follows Shakespeare’s blackamoor across two-and-a-half centuries of print and stage iterations. One of these is the famous performance an influential Cherokee woman interrupted during a trade summit in Williamsburg, Virginia. Rather than assuming that versions of Othello passively reflected scientific or legal racism, Professor Grier suggests that the play’s business with paper props and transferable black face paint offered white audiences an experience of reading texts or people as an exclusive white capacity.

Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Ellis is an assistant professor of history at New York University. Prior to joining NYU, Professor Ellis was the Barra Postdoctoral Fellow and a visiting assistant professor at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Liz’s current book project examines the histories of the smaller Native nations of the Lower Mississippi Valley. Her research is broadly focused on the formation of Native nations in the early southeast and the ways that Indigenous peoples shaped and limited the extent of European colonization. Liz also writes about contemporary Indigenous issues and political movements. She is a citizen of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.