President McInnis’ History Lecture Airs on C-SPAN July 9

On April 28, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis filmed an episode of C-SPAN’s “Lectures in History” series, which focuses on American history being taught in college classrooms around the country. The lectures cover topics ranging from the American Revolution to the 9/11 attacks.

President McInnis presented her lecture, “The Shadow of Slavery in American Public Life,” to students enrolled in Professor April Masten’s History 327 class, “The Arts as History,” which looks at how works of art are also historical documents.

The premiere of “Lectures in History: The Shadow of Slavery in American Public Life,” airs Saturday, July 9, at 8 am and 11 am ET on C-SPAN and at the same times on C-SPAN 2. It will also air at the same times the following Sunday, July 17, on C-SPAN 3.

Professor Masten introduced President McInnis by discussing her field of academic study, which looks at the role that historical scholarship can play in public conversations about race and focuses on the relationship between art and politics in early America, with a focus on slavery. 

More than 50 students were in attendance and had the opportunity to listen to the lecture as well as ask President McInnis follow-up questions.

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President McInnis’ book, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade, centers around a series of paintings and images created by a young British artist, Eyre Crowe, after he visited America in the 1850s. The images to his work were all set in Richmond, Virginia, one of the largest centers of human trafficking in the 1850s, and they represent some of the very few images that were based on eyewitness accounts of a slave auction.

Following the book, President McInnis curated an art exhibition to help the city of Richmond acknowledge, confront and understand its role in human trafficking in the 19th century. It was first on display at the Library of Virginia, and a traveling version was later made available to libraries throughout the state. The exhibition can be viewed online here: To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade.

Professor Masten’s book, Art Work: Women Artists and Democracy in Mid-Nineteenth-Century New York, on which the History 327 class is based, looks at gender in much the same way President McGinnis’ book looks at race. The book explores the surprisingly egalitarian cultural landscape of the 1850s and 1860s in which thousands of young women, aided by the Ruskinian “Unity of Art” ideal and radical artisan reformers and philanthropists, managed to study the visual arts at New York’s Cooper Union and become professional artists, albeit in an emerging industrial society that extolled masculine genius and exploited women’s labor in all realms.

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