Bloomfield College Professor Chosen to Participate in Selective "Slave Narratives" Seminar

Alicia Cook

Bloomfield College is pleased to announce that Dr. Ada McKenzie, Assistant Professor of World Literature, is one of a select group of faculty members nationwide chosen by the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to participate in a special American history seminar on "Slave Narratives."

The multidisciplinary seminar for faculty members in history, english, and related fields will use the slave narratives-as well as some other assigned secondary reading-to comprehend the lived experience of slaves themselves in the transition from bondage to freedom. From a pool of 66 highly competitive nominations, 27 faculty members were selected to participate in the seminar, which will be held at Yale University June 19-24, 2016.

"I am honored by my acceptance into the 2016 American History Seminar on Slave Narratives," said McKenzie. "This unique seminar allows historians and literary scholars to engage in close study of the slave narratives, which are foundational texts in African American history and literature."

Dr. McKenzie completed her doctorate in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a focus on African American and Caribbean literature in English, Spanish, and French.

She is the recipient of several awards, including a Dissertation Fellowship from the American Association of University Women. Her primary research area is contemporary literatures of the African Diaspora, including children's literature.

Dr. McKenzie's background also includes experience in public history and education, as she has worked at cultural institutions including Penn Center-a National Historic Landmark Site in the Sea Islands of South Carolina.

In announcing the selection of participants, CIC President Richard Ekman said, "Strengthening the teaching of American history at colleges and universities is of critical importance. This seminar will provide a great opportunity for participating faculty members to gain a better understanding of the experience of emancipation and the 19th century events that were so important in shaping our world today. We believe that Dr. McKenzie will play a strong role in the seminar."

Seminar participants will examine both antebellum and postbellum narratives. Before the Civil War approximately 65 narratives were published in English, many of them now classics. The pre-emancipation narratives were often serious works of literature as well as works that fit into certain conventions and formulas. They tended to focus squarely on the oppression of slavery and on a former slave's indictment of the institution of bondage as a means of advancing the antislavery argument. The post-emancipation narratives, of which there are approximately 55 in existence, tended to be more success stories-triumphs over the past and visions of a more prosperous future.

"This opportunity will provide me with some new critical insights into the slave narratives, which I will look forward to sharing with my students," added McKenzie.

For more information, visit the CIC website at

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