Dr. Sherita Johnson, assistant professor of English at The University of Southern Mississippi, will host a reception to discuss the publication of her new book from 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5 at the African American Military Museum (Historic USO Club) at 305 E. 6th St. in Hattiesburg.
Johnson’s book titled, “Black Women in New South Literature and Culture,” focuses on the impact racism had on the imagination of Southern writers like Frances Harper, George Washington Cable, Charles Chesnutt, and Anna Julia Cooper. At the reception, she will read excerpts from the book over desserts and coffee, as well as take questions from the audience.
In the book, Johnson argues that black women served as agents of social change through fictional characterization and historical experiences during the early stages of Jim Crow. Specialists in 19th and 20th century American literature will find this book a necessary addition, as will scholars of African American literature and history, according to the publishers Routledge and the Taylor & Francis Group.
“I look at the roles of Southern black women and fictional characters because I believe they were often in a powerful position to negotiate race relations and therefore they shouldn’t be overlooked,” said Johnson. “Black women had important roles in the community and some challenged white authority through their writings or public speaking.”
As a specialist in African American literature, Johnson studies the lives and literature of early black writers many of whom have been all but forgotten today. The first chapter of the book, for instance, focuses on the life and legacy of writer Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. An avid abolitionist, Harper created outspoken female characters who were often the center of their fictional communities. She wrote and published many of her own works before her death in 1911.
“I started focusing on African American writers in the 19th century, but I soon became more interested in Frances Harper who was a black woman born free from slavery in 1825,” said Johnson. “I view Harper’s activism as included in her literature and poetry as a direct reflection of what was going on at that time. The experience of a freed and outspoken black woman is a fresh and new perspective on the South during that time.”
The book reception is free and open to the public. Guests are encouraged to wear business attire. For more information, contact the Department of English at 601-266-4319.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.