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."