By Kathryn Kopchik
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Koritha Mitchell will give the talk, "Living with Lynching: African-American Drama and Citizenship," Monday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.
The talk, which is free and open to the public, is part of the university's celebration of Black History Month, and co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender.
An associate professor of English at Ohio State University, Mitchell is a literary historian and cultural critic. Her research centers on African-American literature, racial violence in U.S. literature and contemporary culture, and black drama and performance. She examines how texts, both written and performed, have helped terrorized families and communities survive and thrive.
Mitchell's book, Living with Lynching: African-American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890 -1930, (University of Illinois Press, 2011) won awards from the American Theatre and Drama Society and from the Society for the Study of American Women Writers.
Her research explores the era between 1890 and 1930, when mobs lynched African-Americans and proudly circulated pictures of the mutilated corpses. With gruesome photographs regularly appearing in the nation's newspapers, and sometimes as picture postcards, the message was clear: blacks are not citizens. Mitchell asks, "How did African-Americans survive this era? How did they maintain a dignified sense of self when photographs of lynch victims entered their homes along with the news? And, how did they continue to believe in their status as U.S. citizens?"
African-Americans needed tools for viewing themselves in ways that did not depend on mainstream messages. In the 1910s and 1920s, black authors began writing plays about lynching, providing their communities with scripts that affirmed their self-conceptions and allowed them to mourn their losses. These scripts became mechanisms through which African-Americans survived the height of mob violence — and its photographic representation — still believing in their right to full citizenship.
The next event in the Black History Month series will be the lecture, "A Dream Deferred: The Promise and Pathos of Peoples' Temple," by Rebecca Moore, San Diego State University, on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center. It is co-sponsored by the Griot Institute for Africana Studies series, "Jonestown Reconsidered, 35 years later."
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