In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the centennials of the passage of woman suffrage by states (1917 in New York), and by the federal government through the 19th amendment in 1919, our Institute will investigate how struggles for civil and political rights for women and African Americans competed and cooperated in the generations before and after the Civil War. Using foundational and new scholarship on abolition and suffrage, such as Manisha Sinha’s The Slave’s Cause: Abolition and the Origins of American Democracy (Yale University Press, 2017), and Wanda Hendricks’ Fannie Barrier Williams: Crossing the Borders of Region and Race (University of Illinois Press, 2014), participants will workshop discussion topics and lesson plans with their peers as they prepare to infuse their classrooms with a fresh approach to these essential themes of 19th and 20th century U.S. history.

This institute begins with three paths of inquiry:

  • Did all women see suffrage as the primary goal of woman’s rights?
  • How expansive was the vision of white middle-class suffragists and how did their vision differ from those of other classes and races?
  • And, with an eye to the national scope of Institute participants, how did geographical location shape responses to the above questions?

The Institute will be grounded in and buttressed by the unique resources offered by three exhibitions on view: BHS’s Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom, on Brooklyn’s abolitionist movement, and the Museum of the City of New York’s Activist New York, which examines four centuries of social activism in the city and Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics, that traces women’s political activism in the city from the struggle to win the right to vote.

Americanist Deborah Gray White, Ph.D., who has written extensively on American slavery and slave women, will serve as our Lead Historian as we explore the intersection of race, class, and gender as these variables come together in slavery, abolitionism, and suffrage. She will demonstrate how blacks, whites, men, and women were differentiated in colonial America and how these differences established the race and gender realities that made abolition and woman’s suffrage necessary.

Reading assignments before the Institute begins include Women, Race, and Class (1983), by Angela Y. Davis and Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South (1985), by Deborah Gray White.

Additional readings include Lisa Tetrault, The Myth of Seneca Falls: Memory and the Woman’s Suffrage Movement, 1848-1898 (University of North Carolina Press, 2014), Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, African American Women and the Struggle for the Vote, 1850-1920 (Indiana Univ. Press, 1998), Margaret Finnegan, Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women (Columbia Univ. Press, 1999), Julie Gallagher, Black Women and Politics in New York City (University of Illinois Press, 2012), Jane E. Dabel, A Respectable Woman: The Public Roles of African American Women in 19th-Century New York (NYU Press, 2008), among others.

2018 Abolition Suffrage NEH Schedule at a Glance

2018 Abolition Suffrage NEH Schedule Day by Day

2016 Abolition Suffrage NEH Schedule