Monster Poetry with Brian Morrison

by Keith Jackson

If you were one of the unlucky ones that missed the Digital Literature Review’s monster poetry reading, you can still read about it here! The reading featured Ball State English Department’s very own Brian Morrison and his manuscript of poems on monsters. He works as an Assistant Professor of English at Ball State University. He agreed to be the star of this semester’s first “DLR Presents” reading, a themed event held once or twice every year, showcasing professional work from Ball State and abroad. Our second event was held last Friday (March 31st) with Jeffrey Weinstock, Ph.D. You can expect a blog about Weinstock’s talk on vampires soon!

Before the reading, I asked Morrison a few questions. He discussed his writing process, how he chooses what topics to explore, what his inspirations were for writing monster poetry, and the project he would be reading from. Morrison was very open in his answers, and I have provided a few below. I will discuss the actual reading a bit later on.

Morrison first talked with me about how he approaches a poem. He does not always know what he’s going to write about beforehand, but he focuses on an image, or sometimes a line, to start things off. The poem forms over time,  over the course of two or three drafts. The ones that he read for the DLR were the result of a project he had started a few years ago. He did not know exactly where it was going at first, but he followed the idea of ‘false history,’ which means that he rewrote classic stories or historical moments. For example, he began to rewrite movies, like Frankenstein, in which the creature is a farmer in the Midwest.

After monsters entered Morrison’s life, he never let them leave. Writing has been a way of life for Morrison, and he used it to help cope with a difficult childhood. Writing helped him navigate through life and make sense of how chaotic it can be at times. To some extent, he says he is still doing it now. Like most of us, his love of monsters stems from movies he had watched. When he was a boy, he and his father found common ground in their love of horror films. They both loved the genre and movies like Jaws, Predator, and anything with werewolves. They bonded in this way, watching monster movies. Brian still watches them, and writing about them has been the most fun he has ever had. This passion resonated well with quite a few of his poems.

Right off the top, the very first poem he read reminded me of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, the monster expert, and his seven theses. Though Morrison’s poems explored several ideas, at the forefront was the political climate in America. Cohen’s first theory in particular resonated strongly throughout the entirety of the reading. In the first theory, “The Monster’s Body Is a Cultural Body,” Cohen says the “monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy (ataractic or incendiary), giving them life and an uncanny dependence” (4). In this way, the monster exists to be read, to reveal, and to warn the reader. The monsters in the first few poems (which work together to convey one cohesive idea) manifest themselves in many ways. For example, in the second poem, fear morphs into a monster Ms. McCready keeps hidden in her basement, bringing it with her to city hall to vote. Though it is easy to blame Ms. McCready for allowing the monster she has only just revealed to influence her ideas, Morrison asks the question, “Can you blame them for caring more about the roads and the children? The taxes and the donors?” The monster Ms. McCready keeps in her basement represents a broader cultural anxiety – the anxiety of a country split into two poles.

Near the end of the reading, Morrison read the poem he had referenced in our discussions – the ‘false history’ poem about Frankenstein’s monster being a farmer in the Midwest. This was perhaps my favorite poem out of the whole collection, partly because of the setting (think rural and cornfields; think Indiana) and partly because this poem was false history. In the poem, which was hilarious and disturbing all at the same time, the monster expresses grief over his unruly appendages and the hard work of tilling a field. The life of a farmer is a lonely one, and Frankenstein’s monster is not devoid of emotion. He longs for friendly connection but knows he is a monster. The townsfolk shun him, consider him “Other,” something that does not belong. The poem closes as Frankenstein disperses his appendages throughout his fields to help the crops grow, ultimately accepting his role as farmer and nothing more.

Whether it is the monster we hide deep within us, the being that controls some of our deepest beliefs, or a twist on a classic story, Morrison’s poems were terrifyingly monstrous. The poems asked us to look within ourselves as a community and as a country. Within them, monsters were created to answer cultural fears and anxieties, to help make sense of the wacky world we live in. “Monsters ask us why we have created them” (Cohen 20). Morrison’s creations asked those in attendance to propose the same question: Why do we love monsters so much?  


Work Cited

Cohen, Jeffrey. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Ed. Cohen. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 1996. pp. 3-25.

Questionable Choreography

By Nikole Darnell

Since it premiered ten years ago, Fox’s dance competition show So You Think You Can Dance has cha-cha’d its way to the top with nineteen awards and sixty nominations (“So You Think You Can Dance: Awards”). The show has frequently been praised for its outstanding choreography, staging, lighting, and more. Married couple Christopher Jennings and Krystal Meraz, better known by their respective stage names, Pharside and Phoenix, are the award-winning choreographers for the show. Their intricate pieces generally feature a theme, especially their hip hop numbers.

In Season Twelve, the duo choreographed a freak show-themed routine for the top seven members of Team Street to Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.” While, at first glance, the number seems innocent and simply entertaining, one can definitely find problematic elements in it, from the choreography and costuming to the types of characters that the dancers are instructed to portray. There are stock carnival characters, such as a clown, a ringmaster, and a tight-rope walker. Then there are also more dated characters, like a strongman and a bearded woman. However, the dance also features a pair of conjoined twins, the only performers in the dance whose costumes refer to the circus’s dark history of exhibiting people with congenital disabilities. Is it really acceptable for the non-disabled to mimic the disabled? Representing conjoined twins as freaks undermines their humanity and, in this case,  makes them into something to be feared rather than what they really are– human beings with thoughts and feelings of their own.

No matter what the role, the performer is made up to look dark and scary, indicating that this particular carnival is something to be feared. Every character in this piece is a little bit frightening, but the costuming and makeup choices definitely accentuate this in the conjoined twins, played by Dancers Yorelis Apolinario and Ariana Crowder. Their hair and costumes are definitely out of the ordinary, but the real anomaly is their makeup, which is done so that it appears that blood is running from the girls’ eyes. Of course, everyone is made to look horrifying, but the other costumes seem a little less so. Virgil Gadson, the dancer who plays the clown, wears a typical clown suit and makeup. Many people are terrified of clowns—Virgil’s appearance could have provided a perfect opportunity for the show to capitalize on terror, if that is what they desired. There are all kinds of designs for creepy clown makeup. After realizing this, it seems especially odd that the show would choose to make the conjoined twins’ makeup more frightening than the clown’s. After all, a clown makes the choice to become a clown. Conjoined twins do not decide to be conjoined twins.   

While other characters have choreography that matches their roles, Ariana and Yorelis are given moves that make their characters seem even more disturbing. At 0:23, Eddie “Neptune” Eskridge seems to lift the tightrope walker with only one arm. The tightrope walker, Jessica “JJ” Rabone, pretends to do her act from 0:59 until 1:09. The bearded lady, played by Džajna “Jaja” Vaňková, can frequently be seen stroking her facial hair. But for the dancers portraying the conjoined twins, the actions are very different. At the beginning of the number, from 0:00 until 0:13, Ariana and Yorelis mime activities that could actually be performed by conjoined twins until the ringmaster, played by Megan “Megz” Alfonso, appears to cut them in half. This part of the choreography is incredibly insensitive to those who are actually conjoined twins, given that it seems to deny the reality of their experiences., At 0:32, Yorelis is instructed to make a disgusting face while the rest of the dancers appear to unscrew her head. At 1:42, the girls join hands and run off to their final position, only to appear to be “re-conjoined.” Choreographing the girls to be split and then put back together is not only unrealistic and disturbing, but it reinforces common stereotypes about conjoined twins. For example, when “normate” people imagine being conjoined, they often imagine what they would feel like if another non-conjoined person were suddenly attached to them. This denies that being conjoined affects a person’s experiences and worldview. All of the other characters were given reasonable choreography, so why is it that the conjoined twins were made to look so terrifying?

It is important to point out that Yorelis and Ariana were simply doing the choreography that was assigned to them. They are actors playing a role and were trying their very hardest to win the show. There are plenty of other characters the show could have incorporated into the routine, such as a lion tamer or even some circus animals. In a society that is shifting towards a more accepting, politically correct world, it is appalling that no one else seemed to be upset that the dancers were mimicking conjoined twins in such a grotesque manner. This questionable choreography is another instance of how society fears what they do not know or understand and make it into something ugly or unclean. After all, conjoined twins are real people. They do not exist to fuel our nightmares.


Works Cited

“Pharside & Phoenix.” The Movement: Talent Agency. The Movement—Dance Talent Agency, 2015. Web. 16. Oct. 2015.

“So You Think You Can Dance: Awards.”, Inc., 2015. Web. 16. Oct. 2015.

Writing about People with Disabilities: Teaching or Displaying?

By Sarah Keck

In freak shows, people with physical differences–such as conjoined twins, those with fewer limbs than the norm, and those who can perform unusual actions–are displayed for the public to gawk and stare at. Because their differences from the “normal” concept of the human are emphasized, they are made to seem inhuman to spectators. Displaying human difference in this way is clearly a problem. However, can this sort of dehumanizing display be done in writing, even though the only things writing presents to be stared at are literally written words on a piece of paper? Sure. Here’s why:

A few definitions of the verb “display,” according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, are “to put or spread before the view,” “to make evident,” and “to exhibit ostentatiously.” When writing about people with disabilities, writers are not literally displaying them for people to view (although people are capable of envisioning what’s written down in detail), but it is still a form of exhibit. Julia Twigg describes this in her article “Social Policy and the Body” in the book Rethinking Social Policy: “An emphasis on the bodily potentially demeans disabled people, presenting them as the rejected ‘other’ of the freak show, subject to…pitying gaze of the dominant society” (135). This emphasis on a person’s bodily “abnormality” can occur physically or in writing.

Twigg presents an example from her own research, in which she decided that a description would amount to a demeaning display. She was writing about a disabled woman whose caretakers did not arrive at her house at the right time. In the midst of writing that the woman wouldn’t just “eat, sleep and live but also excrete in the bed,” she stopped herself because that last detail would “expose and lessen” that woman (135). Readers should learn about disabilities, but their focus shouldn’t be solely on the disabled body to the point that they forget the disabled person’s humanity. Focusing on the woman’s body, in this case, could present her as animalistic because hygiene practices are one of things that we see as separating humans from animals, and, without a caretaker, this woman was denied access to these practices. Also, although excretion is normal and natural, it is considered private, and this privacy is central to human dignity.

In the play The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance challenges the dehumanization of disabled people in writing. Although the play is meant to be performed, the challenge comes through to a reader as well. In Scene 3, the main character, John Merrick, is put on display due to his body being disabled. Dr. Frederick Treves, the surgeon who takes in Merrick, describes Merrick’s body in his medical display:

…From the upper jaw there projected another mass of bone. It protruded from the mouth like a pink stump, turning the upper lip inside out, and making the mouth a wide, slobbering aperture…The deformities rendered the face utterly incapable of the expression of any emotion whatsoever…developed hip disease which left him permanently lame, so that he could only walk with a stick. (Pomerance 5-6)

Though this written display of Merrick focuses dominantly on his body, dehumanizing him, it is only a brief scene, and it is later criticized within the play. The majority of the play doesn’t center only on Merrick’s body. There are many scenes in which Merrick’s personhood is noted so that his body is not the focal point. A few examples would be when he cried at how Madge Kendal, a visitor, was the first woman to shake his hand (35), when he explained his purpose in building a model of St. Phillip’s church (38), and when he questions the standards Treves has regarding the display of women’s bodies in Scene 16 (55-58). Readers can learn in The Elephant Man that Merrick is more than his stage name. From being in a freak show to living in Treves’ care, Merrick goes from “freak” to “normal” in the reader’s mind. He is presented in writing as a human being, displaying qualities and actions of any human, as every person with a disability does.

In performance, the play takes this focus on his humanity further. Pomerance made it clear to focus on Merrick as a person in the play’s introduction: “Any attempt to reproduce his [Merrick’s] appearance and his speech naturalistically – if it were possible – would seem to me not only counterproductive, but, the more remarkably successful, the more distracting from the play” (V-VI). If an actor took the appearance of Merrick, the audience would only be drawn to the character’s abnormality, not to the humanity. Thus, it wouldn’t be different from a live freak show with Merrick on display. Pomerance doesn’t focus only on Merrick’s body in the script, so he doesn’t advise actors to take on the role literally in the production. But he does not ignore Merrick’s body either. He suggested using “projected slides” (VI) to give people an understanding of how Merrick appeared. Thus, once they’d gotten past their initial prejudices, the reader and viewer can come to an understanding of Merrick as a person with a disability, rather than a person in spite of his disability.

It’s not entirely possible to write about people without indirectly displaying them. The thing is, if what’s written about disabled people is meant to teach people about the feelings and experiences of those put up on display, then it’s not meant to be negative. They can be displayed in writing in ways that do not other them but instead educate readers.


Works Cited

“Display.” Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web.

Pomerance, Bernard. The Elephant Man. New York: Grove, 1979. V-VI, 5-6, 35, 38, 55-58. Print.

Twigg, Julia. “Social Policy and the Body.” Rethinking Social Policy. Ed. Gail Lewis, Sharon Gewirtz, and John Clarke. London: Open U in Association with SAGE Publications, 2000. 135. Print.

The Making of the DLR Part 3: Publicity Team

Hello and welcome to the third installment of The Making of the Digital Literature Review. The Digital Literature Review is created through the hard work and contributions of all of its individual undergraduate members. These members are divided into three teams (Design, Editorial, and Publicity) at the start of each issue, and collectively work throughout the semester in order to edit, produce, and publish the Digital Literature Review. The start of the school year begins with the teams studying a particular theme designated for that year, under the guidance of a professor. The next semester involves receiving submissions for the journal and readying them for publication.

In this post, we will cover the duties and responsibilities of the members of the Publicity team, as well as have the team members share their personal thoughts and experiences about the immersive learning class. They will cover the challenges they’ve had to endure as well as their triumphs throughout the semester as they collectively worked to improve the online presence and visibility of Ball State’s Digital Literature Review.

The responsibilities of the Publicity team:

  • Review submissions to the DLR blog
  • Ensure proper distribution of advertising materials
  • Post and advertise for events concerning the DLR
  • Maintain Twitter, Facebook, and blog presence

Responsibilities and course work as a student in this immersive learning class:

  • Study the material of the designated theme for the year
  • Assign blog entries for our DLR blog
  • Write for the DLR blog and possibly for the English Department blog
  • Create a capstone project

Our Publicity Team members:


Morgan Aprill (Team Leader), Senior


Jeff Owens, Junior


Elisabeth (Niki) Wilkes, Senior

What was your best experience as a member of the Publicity team?


Niki: I really enjoyed working on the DLR blog. It was a project within the project, and it felt really good to be able to delegate what was going where. Having been in charge of that is going to be really helpful in my job searches, and just knowing that I have that skill now is great.


Morgan: I really enjoyed putting together the class visits we took part in. It was a great experience to reach out to potentially new members for next year’s DLR as well as trying to get more submissions for that issue. That was basically our main goal as the Publicity team.


Jeff: I’d say the whole class is the experience I focused on. The Publicity team was secondary to my experience as a student of our issue’s topic, “Slavery Now.” When we started concerning ourselves with issues of the representation of slavery, I really saw a change in myself, and that really just clicked for me. I know I’ll never be able to look at representation the same.


Share some of the challenges you faced as a Publicity member


Morgan: Just really making sure we chose the best ways to reach the most people was tough. We had to make sure we considered the audience and what was important to them so that we could be effective in our goals.


Jeff: In a setting like this, other people really depend on you, and that can be a lot of pressure. That kind of responsibility really makes you aware that if you aren’t doing your part, then other people are going to have a tougher time and will have to compensate for your fault. That really gives a real world feel to the DLR.


Niki: The hardest part of this class is that its structure is really not typical. I like all the structure of normal classes, so it was pretty tough to learn to be flexible and roll with the changing due dates. But I still think that this is a useful skill to have practiced.



What skills do you think you’ve developed with your team?


Jeff: Being able to know how to interact and communicate effectively with people in certain settings is so important. I’d say that in this class I learned how to interact in a professional manner even with people that I might know personally. I think that skill is really going to translate well to a career setting.


Niki: It was really interesting to learn all the different ways you can approach people about things. We were able to really get all the different social media platforms going, and make a lot of different people excited about the DLR and its projects.


Morgan: I think my communication skills really grew with this experience. Through social media and other public forms of communication, we were able to create and maintain a professional image. That’s going to be really important when I’m looking at careers.


If you’ve missed a prior installment of The Making of the DLR, check them out here and here.

If you’re interested in joining the DLR team for the upcoming issue, contact Dr. Joyce Huff.

Also, don’t forget to check out our webfsite, Facebook, and Twitter for more information and regularly updated posts.

The Making of the DLR Part 2: Editorial Team

Hello and welcome to the second installment of The Making of the Digital Literature Review. The Digital Literature Review is created though the hard work and contributions of all of its individual undergraduate members. These members are divided into three teams (Design, Editorial, and Publicity) at the start of each issue, and they collectively work throughout the semester in order to edit, produce, and publish the Digital Literature Review. The start of school year begins with the teams studying a particular theme designated for that year, under the guidance of a professor. The next semester involves receiving submissions for the journal and readying them for publication.

In this post, we will cover the duties and responsibilities of the members of the Editorial team, as well as have the team members share their personal thoughts and experiences about the immersive class. They will cover the challenges they’ve had to endure as well as their triumphs throughout the semester as they collectively worked to improve the content and accuracy of Ball State’s Digital Literature Review.

The responsibilities of the Editorial team:

  • Review submissions to the journal for quality
  • Send acceptance/refusals to authors
  • Copy edit accepted submissions to the journal
  • Review and copy edit the DLR in its final stages

Responsibilities and course work as a student in this immersive learning class:

  • Study the material of the designated theme for the year
  • Assigned blog entries for our DLR blog
  • Write for the DLR blog and possibly for the English Department blog
  • Create a capstone project

Our Editorial Team members:


Esther Wolfe, Team Leader, Senior


Sadie Brown, Senior


Nikole Darnell, Sophomore


Caitlin Dashiell, Senior


Kathryn Hampshire, Sophomore


Bryce Longenberger, Junior


Isabel Vazquez, Junior


What was it like building the Editorial team and putting into practice your process?


Esther: We really wanted to build on the foundation from last year. This year it was more about making the process more efficient. It was especially important in training the new members in our editorial process: creating dress rehearsals, and training processes.


Nikole: Some parts of the process could get overwhelming considering that you would have to show up to class on certain days and copyedit huge sections of text. I mean it’s feasible to get it all done, but just be ready to work hard when you come into the team.


Kathryn: Even though I knew this was the team I wanted to be a part of, I didn’t really know what to expect. It ended up being a lot more than I did expect though, and that was just really exciting as the year progressed. I thought it would be a lot of copyediting, but it turned out to be a lot more than that, which was really great.


Isabel: It was great to see such a large group working together to achieve one goal. Especially since I was able to still voice my opinions and be heard when I thought somethings should be changed. It’s a real confidence builder to know that I could polish my new skills and apply them to a real world experience.


So how did your team overcome the big challenges during the course of the year?


Kathryn: Well one of the big things we worried about was how to keep our documents straight. We were really concerned that our system wouldn’t be efficient enough. Fortunately we came up with a great folder system that really helped us get ourselves organized and keep all the various versions of documents separate.


Bryce & Kathryn: We can talk about how tough it was to work on our peers’ submissions to the journal.

It was an issue that really came up a lot. We had to make sure we remained professional and respectful because some of these papers were from people we see every day. Everyone was really thorough and approached each paper so carefully and honestly that I think that everyone was able to accept that we had made the right decisions.

We knew that every factor we could think of was considered and our decisions were made based on that.


Isabel: I think the most stressful part was just not having any idea what to expect. I’d never really done any immersive class work before and so this whole thing was a completely new experience to me. By the end of the semester I felt a lot more confident in my abilities, and I know if I need to do this type of thing again, I’ll have no problems.


Discuss some of the best things you experienced on the Editorial team.


Esther: I think another thing that might be challenging about the editorial team is that, even if you try, you can never anticipate all of the things that are going to pop up. So we just tried to make sure we had a protocol in place about how to react and deal with those things that just popped up on the day-to-day basis.


Isabel: It was really cool if I was struggling that I could approach the other members and get help. That really helped when I was learning to sculpt this level of academic work and to tailor it to a specific audience.

To see more of The Making of the DLR, check out the first installment and the last installment covering the two other hardworking teams.

If you’re interested in joining the DLR team for the upcoming issue, contact Dr. Joyce Huff.

Also, don’t forget to check out our website, Facebook, and Twitter for more information and regularly updated posts.

The Making of the DLR Part 1: Design Team

By: Isabel Vazquez

Hello and welcome to the first installment of our blog series, The Making of the Digital Literature Review. The Digital Literature Review is created though the hard work and contributions of all of its individual undergraduate members. These members are divided into three teams (Design, Editorial, and Publicity) at the start of each year, and they collectively work throughout the semester in order to edit, produce, and publish the Digital Literature Review. The start of school year begins with all the students studying a particular theme designated for that year, under the guidance of a professor. The next semester involves receiving submissions for the journal and readying them for publication.

In this post, we will cover the duties and responsibilities of the members of the design team, as well as have the team members share their personal thoughts and experiences about the immersive class. They will cover the challenges they’ve had to endure as well as their triumphs throughout the semester as they collectively worked to improve the image and design of Ball State’s Digital Literature Review.

The responsibilities of the Design team:

  • Create flyers and handouts for the DLR and Gala event
  • Create flyers for recruiting new members every school year
  • Format the compiled journal for publication
  • Work with InDesign, Photoshop, and other Adobe Creative Suite applications
  • Choose, take, and edit photos for purposes within the journal
  • Create an image design for the cover of the journal

Responsibilities and course work as a student in this immersive learning class:

  • Study the material of the designated theme for the year
  • Write for the DLR blog and possibly for the English Department blog
  • Create a capstone project

Our Design Team members:

Daniel Brount, Team Leader, Junior


Isaha Cook, Senior


Alex Selvey, Senior


What made you decide to be part of the Design team? What parts of it sounded appealing?


Daniel: I really enjoy design, especially as far as trying to find the proper visual representations for things. It’s really interesting to think of different ways to represent something as complicated as slavery and to then translate that representation into something visual through InDesign. It was hard to think about how you represent slavery visually without causing any triggers or doing anything too one-sided? We didn’t want to make the visual aspect of the journal to seem too far in the past or too much about abuse, because there’s so many different elements to it.


Isaha: I decided to join the Design team because it gave me an opportunity to enhance my skill set in design and making images. I’ve had a lot of time over the years to practice with writing and editorial processes; that’s why I was gravitating more towards the Design Team just because I had already explored other elements of publication and here was this new world of design that I was learning about. This also would give me more skills to take and apply in a real-world job. I feel like I’ve become a more rounded individual; in terms of that, I can do the editing and also come up with a fun or a very serious design.


Alex: I joined the Design team because I had a bit of an interest in Design but wanted to improve my skills and learn more. Also, I really just wanted to learn to communicate with people effectively through visual media.


What kind of projects and work do you perform on the Design team?

Daniel: Last semester we worked a lot on the general image of the DLR. We updated our logo, made it look a little bit cleaner, a little bit more modern. We really reworked our entire website to try and build something that would really represent our professional aspect and the fact that we do have a different theme every year. We didn’t want it to look like just one thing. For example, the original design really played up that year’s theme, so that’s all that you saw on the website. Then we decided that the design we came up with could really stand the test of time. There’s a space on it where you can put the banner for that year, so you can still see what the theme is for that year without the whole website screaming “Slavery Now” or “Hauntings” or “Freakshow.” That should be pretty good for future years, so they don’t have to redo the website again.

And the rest was just advertising, doing the flyers, figuring out the exact layout of the inside of the actual journal itself, which involved questions, again, of how one best portrays the topic of slavery. We talked a lot about what colors we wanted to use, because we didn’t want it to be just black and white. What colors can we get away with? We didn’t want to use red because it makes you think of blood, and we didn’t want colors that seemed too racially focused. So, we went with a blue-gray theme. It was very neutral; it added vibrance to an otherwise potentially blank slate.


What do you most enjoy about being part of the team?


Isaha: I believe that focusing on making a professional presentation, especially with all of the documents and media we had to create over the semester, for me, was what I liked the best. Being a part of the team helped me realize that this isn’t something that I’m creating for just my teachers’ or peers’ eyes, which is something that you don’t really get in other college courses. With this, you get to think about who is going to happen upon our website and download this product that we worked so hard on, who is going to see all the things that we’ve done over the semester? To me, that was a driving force, to keep it really professional and just do the best work that I possibly could.


Was it difficult to balance this project along with other classes?


Alex: At times, it could be. But in general, this class is pretty comparable to an average workload of a normal class. Having work days in class is really helpful, however. At times it seems like it could be more, but in general it’s about the same as a regular class.


If you’re interested in learning more about the Digital Literature Review teams, look forward to our upcoming installments of The Making of the Digital Literature Review featuring the Editorial and Publicity Teams!

If you’re interested in joining the DLR Team for the upcoming issue, contact Dr. Joyce Huff.

Also, don’t forget to check out our website, Facebook, and Twitter for more information and regularly updated posts.

Giving a Voice to the Choiceless

By: Caitlin Dashiell

Hidden in plain view, captured prisoners and soldiers of the Nazi army comprised the inhabitants of three internment camps known as Auschwitz in Germany during the Holocaust. Siphoned back and forth between death, prison, and forced labor, Auschwitz’s imprisoned individuals were made to identify as Jewish, or with ethnicities or social classes determined by German Nazi standards to be equally inferior. Marked as inadequate for the human race, these individuals were brought into the triad of camps to be traumatized, enslaved, and often fatally poisoned within gas chambers. This narrative of the Holocaust is known by individuals around the world, whether they lived during the time of the Second World War or not, because of how it embeds itself into the cultural narrative of many countries globally. As these horrors border on the surreal, passed down because of trauma often impossible to comprehend, it takes the accurate communication of memory to keep the events of the past living. Opening on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the “Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz” exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, OH takes on this challenge of memory transmission, offering representational personal belongings from once-captive prisoners in Auschwitz, in tandem with the personal testimonies of Holocaust survivors, and now Cincinnati residents, Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel. Through this strategy, the Freedom Center not only represents an event of trauma, but transmits the story of the Holocaust to those who can only understand through the absorption of these communicated memories.

Told chronologically, “Unlocking the Gates” conveys the story of a man and woman living through the trauma of the Holocaust, from their initiation into the camps to their escape. Visitors walk past what architect Peter Zumthor would call “surrounding objects,” which make the otherwise blank walls and floors echo with the narrative being communicated (54), and come to screens displaying videos of Werner and Bella telling their stories. The physical artifacts and candid verbal narratives come together to express and transmit how a person can be stripped of his or her identity and reduced to what Werner calls “consumable raw materials.” Werner and Bella tell their stories, acting simultaneously as a voice for themselves, and for those that have been silenced.

Broken into stages, and communicated through groupings of objects and their location in the exhibit, artifacts and screens are split into structured rooms connected by corridors, and are paired together in correspondence to each phase of life in Auschwitz, as noted by the exhibit’s narrators. The initial set of items speaks to the fears of those targeted individuals who were unable to escape who they were. Books, paper ephemera, and embroidered tokens of being marked a Jew sit in glass cases, serving as objects that attest to the Nazi’s destruction of people’s lives and identities. The Jewish people were identified through markers on their homes, their clothing, their passports, and often on their businesses, objectified through physical signs of banishment. These indicators became the first level of identity erasure for the Jewish people.

Moving into the second spatial construct of the exhibition, visitors start in a corridor which details the process of capture for the Jewish people. As Werner explains in the video at the end of the corridor, “When I got off the train, I heard ‘women and children to the left: men to the right,’” which would become the last words many heard before the Nazi’s silenced the voices of those who entered Auschwitz. Visitors are transported back to the moments preceding Werner’s capture through the use of present-day spatial constriction within the exhibit, as well as visuals that signal entrapment. Here, visitors to “Unlocking the Gates” see the birth of identity erasure, as images and ephemera of individuals boarding train cars coat the walls of the exhibit. This progression through the tight corridor and into the exhibit signals how the exhibit shifts the visitors’ focus from the process of initial emotional destruction and mental degradation in the camps to that of physical erasure and trauma. Not only are the Jewish people, in addition to others identified as inferior to the German race, stripped down to a single term defining their worth, but their understood environment is erased from their lives.

Because the exhibition forces visitors to continue to progress claustrophobically through tight spaces and corridors, visitors gain a greater level of clarity about the approach taken by the Nazi army to control the intake and distribution of bodies into Auschwitz. Taking this even further, visitors to “Unlocking the Gates” are drawn to wall displays that convey and transmit some of the dialog of the Nazi enforcers within the camps, with one army general commenting that “shooting became a strain,” indicating how, as time went on, the Nazi mentality went from using brute force to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality with the transition to the gas chambers. The Nazis made use of deceptive language and actions to sanitize themselves, and the greatest abuse of power became the manipulation of once harmless constructs for the benefit of the “master race.” Even through infrastructure as harmless as the railway system within Germany, the Nazi’s utilized these lines for transport to Auschwitz, taking advantage of an existing infrastructure for the supposed betterment of the race, shuttling “inferior” individuals (often) to their eventual death in Auschwitz. Through the language and conveyed memories of this exhibit, representation becomes transmission, with visitors interacting with memories through the startling dialogue that catches individuals within the physical architectural boundaries of the exhibition. Visitors to “Unlocking the Gates” now possess a richer internal understanding of the past, as communicated memories impose themselves on visitors through language and visual indicators of trauma.

The final portions of this exhibit not only touch on, but uncover in-depth, the process of forced labor and escape within Auschwitz for Werner and Bella, as the exhibit also presents the personal objects and struggles of this man and woman specifically. Werner and Bella look directly into the camera to speak, giving life to their personal belongings, as only the potency of words and language can. The Nazis took things that were necessary, though maybe not beautiful, and bent them to their will, infecting the social structure, the infrastructure, and the consumable goods with the blood of those not included in the “master race.” However, what Werner and Bella tell us through their accounts of labor, as they approached their opportunities for freedom, is that their work and daily activities were never done without losing sight of how to make it out alive. As read in a letter written by a mother on one of the trains into Auschwitz: “remain free people, and observe everything with open eyes.” Perhaps this heightened perception and observation was what assisted Bella and Werner in surviving. Though this woman may not have survived to return to her children, her words live on through this exhibit as a testament to how language and written memories offer a unique perspective on historical events. Emotionally charged, this exhibit merits praise for how it transports visitors back to a time of captivity and constriction, while still keeping them with one foot firmly in the present.

“Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later” is one city’s way of remembering a time of incommunicable strife and trauma. Drawing parallels to American slavery, and what are commonly considered acts of enslavement, “Unlocking the Gates” demonstrates the systematic oppression and inhumanity evident in the structuring of Auschwitz. The decision to incorporate this exhibition into The Freedom Center was grounded in learning about and reflecting on historical events that challenged the strength of the human spirit amidst extreme oppression, as explained by executive director Sarah L. Weiss. The victims of the Holocaust and the concentration camps of Auschwitz were defined by their ability to act as a piece of a machine, stripped of freedom, and devoid of the ability to make choices. In an attempt to educate visitors and offer reflection on the events of the past, the chief desire of The Freedom Center in the display of “Unlocking the Gates” is to communicate the security of freedom “in all its forms,” whether this be through testimony, representational physical objects, or the power of the written word (“Powerful Exhibit”). Communicating memory through personal testimony and tangible objects is how this exhibit makes its mark on modern day discourse regarding slavery and institutional oppression.

Though the American public cannot directly or accurately understand what going through this process of erasure and rebirth entailed, what can be communicated is how these events can be included in our national narrative, in order for us to understand trauma and slavery outside of traditional definitions. These transmissions of memory can be used to develop how we better understand and react to our own trauma, in addition that of other countries, to strengthen how the memory of events of global impact are incorporated in our society. Here, transmission of memory and language through spoken and written form, as it relates to personal objects, serves as an aid for our collective memory; giving way to how we interpret the experiences we have not lived through. The exhibit ends with both Werner and Bella offering their thoughts 70 years after the end of the Holocaust, and as each of them speaks, voices tense, they talk about looking back after 70 years. Now with scars, tattoos, and, most importantly, families, Werner and Bella are reminded of where they have been, what they have achieved, and how survival is rooted most deeply in the retained memories of what is good.


Works Cited

“Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later.” The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinatti, OH 45202. 7 February 2015.

Zumthor, Peter. Atmospheres: Cultural Environments, Surrounding Objects. Reinach: Birkhauser, 1998. Print

“Powerful Exhibit Shares Local Stories of Despair, Hope and Loss During the Holocaust.” National Underground Railroad Freedom Center . N.p., 14 Dec. 2014 Web. 13 Apr. 2015.

Western Europe: Key Recommendations

By: Lucy Mahaffey

In the following post, undergraduate student Lucy Mahaffey from University of Oklahoma examines comparative data about the anti-trafficking practices of both Greece and Norway and offers recommendations for other countries looking to improve their anti-slavery policies.

Western Europe is often looked to for ideal infrastructure and government. In instances of human trafficking, it has led the abolitionist movement with the United States. However, there is a gap between what has been theorized and what is being practiced. According to its membership in the United Nations and the European Union, as well as its income level, Norway could be more effective, but it is by far one of the all-around best European counties when it comes to anti-trafficking practices. Greece is sluggish and still appears to be in new territory by comparison. The challenge facing Greece today is to bring its prevention, intervention, and prosecution forward to compare more favorably with its EU neighbors. This could be done by strengthening local and national education programs, seeking swifter ways to intervene when cases occur, and following through with stronger and more effective prosecution and reformative incarceration of traffickers. In short, funding is needed for law enforcement and lawyer training as well as emphasizing incarceration as “an arena of developing responsibility” (James) instead of solely for punishment. Through these actions, with emphasis on mitigating corruption and discrimination, true and unbiased justice in Greece would prevail.


Prosecutions and Convictions – Norway and Greece

Overall, in Greece there was a general lack of prosecution in human trafficking cases and a “new territory” feel to procedure. Although they are making progress, there is a large gap between Greek actions and those of countries from the rest of Western Europe. According to the 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP Report), Greek police investigated 37 human trafficking cases in 2013 (46 cases in 2012; 11 investigations were for forced begging or labor.) NGOs reported in four cases, with sentences ranging from 15 to 22 years’ imprisonment and fines the equivalent of approximately $14,000 to $70,000. Concerning Greek actions in 2013, the TIP Report also states that “the government prosecuted 142 defendants on suspicion of committing trafficking-related crimes” (“Greece” TIP Report), but this was less than the 177 from 2012 (as well as the 220 in 2011.) Out of 177 defendants, there were 26 who fell into the labor trafficking category whereas 23 were categorized for labor and sexual exploitation. There was not full data available for the TIP Report from “approximately half of the courts in Greece” (“Greece” TIP Report).

Year 2012 2013
Greek Trafficking CASES/CONVICTIONS 27/177 46/142
Greek Conviction Rate 15% 32%

One aspect that the TIP fails to look at is the conviction rate. It is not difficult to discern from the data and is important to consider for progress of efforts over time. In 2013, for instance, the government convicted 46 traffickers and acquitted 16 (32% conviction rate with 46 of 142 defendants), compared with 27 convictions and 16 acquittals (or a 15% conviction rate) in 2012 (“Greece” TIP Report). This shows a good improvement; however, each judge has a varying degree of knowledge of trafficking and, thus, largely lacked consideration of victims. It also seems that prosecution was not consistent. Also, lawyers for traffickers (or suspects) often portrayed their clients as pimps, rather than traffickers, with the hopes of a less harsh punishment of five years’ imprisonment or to avoid prison by paying fines. For Greece, there was no data available to breakdown defendants into either sex or labor trafficking.

Norway, on the other hand, has a great infrastructure for combating trafficking, but their conviction rate over the last few years shows that there has not been enough allocated to effectively combat trafficking (“Norway” TIP Report).

Norwegian authorities initiated 69 investigations in 2013. Thirty of these were for sex trafficking and thirty-nine were for labor trafficking. The government prosecuted six sex trafficking suspects (20% cr) and three labor trafficking suspects (13% cr) in 2013 (compared with two suspects (8% cr) and six suspects (28%) in 2012.) Authorities convicted three sex trafficking offenders and two labor trafficking offenders in 2013, compared with three sex trafficking offenders and four labor trafficking offenders convicted in 2012. These are interesting findings, indicating that perhaps there is a finite amount of resources, which are simply reallocated to whichever type of cases (sex or labor) that were lacking the previous year. The Norwegian government needs to allocate more time and energy into trafficking cases.

Year 2012 2013
Sex Trafficking CASES/CONVICTIONS 6/30 2/26
Norway ST Conviction Rate 20% 8%
Labor Trafficking CASES/CONVICTIONS 3/39 6/22
Norway LT Conviction Rate 8% 28%

A Final Word

Norway is by no means perfect in its efforts to combat trafficking, and Greece should not be vilified. Europe and global stakeholders may use the lessons these two countries provide to improve standards, enhance understanding, and encourage collective effort in combating trafficking. The topics touched upon, such as funding, education, and swifter intervention, are much needed. They are, however, only a starting point. Slavery today has widely been acknowledged as a global atrocity by governments, religious leaders, and businesses alike. It is crucial, however, to delve deeper into the subject matter to carry the global perspective beyond mere acknowledgement and to truly question the norms of today. Why is there any trafficking in Norway, a country with a GDP exceeding three-fourths of the world’s countries? Is Greece to blame for its sluggish anti-trafficking actions, or is this a result of external pressure from economic policy and internal government turmoil? The world must ask these far-reaching questions, refusing to simply accept a prosecution as the final answer to trafficking and remembering to examine the “best practice” countries and regions without idolizing them. Through this perspective, future studies on trafficking today may build a more thorough picture of serviceable policy and create the lasting change we all desire.


Works Cited

“Greece.” Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. US Department of State, 2014. 188-9. Web.

James, Erwin. “Norwegian Prison Inmates Treated Like People.The Guardian 25 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Nov. 2014.

“Norway.” Trafficking in Persons Report 2014. US Department of State, 2014. 299-300. Web.

On Barbados and “English Trader, Indian Maid”: An Interview With Dr. Frank Felsenstein

By: Isabel Vazquez

Recently, I had the privilege to interview Dr. Felsenstein, author of the Inkle and Yarico reader titled English Trader, Indian Maid (1999). In his anthology, he provides numerous translations and variations of the story of Inkle and Yarico as it developed throughout the late-seventeenth and eighteenth-centuries. Because of his work on this story, Dr. Felsenstein and his wife were invited to take a trip to Barbados in January, where he viewed the dedication of a monument to Yarico on Kendal Plantation (where the flesh-and-blood Yarico supposedly lived). He also traveled to London from March 4 to March 8 to lecture on the history of Inkle and Yarico at a pre-performance event for the opening of the musical Yarico by Yarico Productions.

downloadFor those of you not familiar with the story, it tells the tale of Inkle, an English merchant shipwrecked in the Americas, and Yarico, the beautiful Indian maiden who rescues him. Yarico and Inkle begin a romantic relationship, and when Inkle returns to the European world with Yarico (promising to take her as his wife if they were to return safely), he immediately sells her into slavery, despite the fact that she is bearing his child.

The fictive story is based on the factual account of Richard Ligon’s expedition to the English colony in Barbados. In his memoir of A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados (1657), he tells of his encounter with a freeborn Indian slave by the name of Yarico who is pregnant with a white servant’s child. It is from this historical recollection that Richard Steele drew inspiration for the tale of Inkle and Yarico in the Spectator #11 (1711).

To open the interview, I asked Dr. Felsenstein to speak generally about English Trader, Indian Maid and the Inkle and Yarico story:

The story became popular during a time when people in the eighteenth century started to be concerned about the treatment of African slaves and started to ask the question: how do you demonstrate the wrongness of slavery? One way in which you can is to appeal not to the head, not to the economic considerations, but to the heart. And I think that one should recognize that sentiment was something that was extremely powerful, it was going to appeal to the heart. Many of the “Inkle and Yarico” stories did appeal to the heart and to the idea that the selling of Yarico was so wrong—and the dramatic versions of the play from the late 18th century really emphasized this strategy. So these versions of the story were an important factor in helping to sway opinion in favor of the abolition of the slave trade from the British Isles, which took place in the early 19th century and then the abolition from the British colonies in the 1830’s, which let’s remember, is about thirty years before the United States fought a terrible war over the question of slavery.

Would you mind beginning by telling me a little bit about the trip to Barbados in itself, an overview of sorts?

The invitation to do this arrived relatively late on. I had actually already committed to going to a conference in La Jolla, California the weekend before, and I was asked to talk in Barbados the following Tuesday. The talk was sponsored partly by the people involved with the Inkle and Yarico play (Yarico Productions) and partly by the Barbados Museum, which is very interested in trying to restore and make sense of Bajan history. So when I got there the day following the La Jolla conference, I was asked to go straight to the museum. I met the curator there and our meeting was televised. The following day I went in the morning to where the monument was being mounted.

Can you tell me about your experience on Kendal Plantation?

Kendal Plantation is the plantation where the historical Yarico actually existed. There is a pond there, known as Yarico’s Pond. There are a number of ponds there, and one doesn’t know for sure whether this was the pond, though we do know that she gave birth to her child, “a lusty boy, frolick and lively,” by a pond on the estate, and that she was enslaved in that plantation.

When my travel was arranged, the plan had been that the unveiling of the monument to Yarico by Freundel Stuart, the Prime Minister of Barbados and my talk would be on the same day (Tuesday). What the planners did not take into account was that the Barbadian Parliament was due to have its ceremonial opening session on that Tuesday, so that the P.M. could not unveil the statue that day, and the formal dedication was postponed to Wednesday morning, when my wife and I were already committed to flying back to the U.S. So, on the Tuesday morning, we traveled to the Kendal Plantation, and were present when the plaque to the monument was mounted/installed. As I saw the monument being installed, there was a house just next to us, and an elderly man and his sister-in-law beckoned to us and said, “I recognize you. Yeah, I saw you on television earlier this morning!”

Yarico Monument

Yarico Monument

We actually stayed at Holder House, a traditional Barbados Plantation house owned by Wendy Kidd. Her son, Jack Kidd, hosted us and we had a terrific time. He was very generous as a host and in showing us parts of the island and taking us to see the Kendal Plantation. I think if they had sufficient money from private sponsors and from the United Nations they could make the Kendal Plantation into a world heritage site. You could renovate the still intact factory to show how this was a main source of sugar to feed the lucrative Caribbean trade with Europe, and how people were cruelly enslaved to enhance the production of this much in demand commodity. And you’d have that wonderful story of Yarico which belongs specifically to that plantation. So I don’t know whether that will ever happen but it would be quite brilliant if it did!

How was your talk received by the audience?

I thought it was so interesting. It was very much a mixed race audience, and there was a great question and answer session. I had several people who objected to my saying that the African people who were brought over were sent as slaves because they believe—and they call themselves Pan-Africans—that they came to Barbados as free people and that they were only enslaved after their arrival. And the historical evidence goes entirely against that, but apparently there are a number of people who believe this. I had to be sort of diplomatic and say, well, there must be more than one point of view. But apparently this is quite deeply entrenched in Black Caribbean and Barbadian culture, this idea that African people came over freely, of their own volition, and then were cruelly enslaved. I thought that was very fascinating, and I did not know about it before hand.

I think it is interesting how a story that is historical can then transform to something almost kind of mythological over the course of the eighteenth century. It is just fascinating how it works. What do you make of this process?

Well, I think the term I use to describe this process is not my own originally, but it is called “factual fiction.” It’s one of the most interesting things about literature, the relation between fact and fiction. Another adjective which I use to describe the Inkle and Yarico story is “ductile,” the fact that it can transform into so many different media if you like. That to me is enormously fascinating. And that transformative aspect accounts for the fact that it’s still very much a story that appeals to the present generation.

Would you say the story is past its glory days or will it become popular again?

Well, I don’t agree that it’s past its glory days. I think that, as with any good story, it needs to be retold in a present-day context, and I think that is essentially what’s happening. When we compare the parallel American story of Pocahontas that has become mythologized in all sorts of ways through to the Disney cartoon version of it, we see that these fictional accounts are a very long way away from what actually happened at that time. And, the story of Yarico has a twist to it in a way that the Pocahontas story does not.

In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between audiences today seeing the play vs. George Colman’s late eighteenth-century version of the play? What does the modern version represent to modern viewers?

Colman was a relatively young dramatist at that time; this was his first big hit. He’d had other plays before, but this was the first one which really had an impact. I’m not sure that he was fully aware of the impact that it would have. But the evidence is that it was performed everywhere in Great Britain and in North America, and also in the Caribbean. People responded to it as a play that was topical. Some scholars have contended that maybe we could see Colman’s Inkle and Yarico (1787) as the first social problem play because it deals with the question of slavery, albeit in a fairly light-hearted manner. You might feel that, in some ways, Colman ducked the issue by bringing Inkle and Yarico together again at the end of the play. But again, it was something which was tangible and emotive, it appealed to the heart, so I think that worked for the audience at that time. But for a present day audience, Yarico The Musical may allow them to become aware of the fact that slavery has not disappeared and that it is something that exists now.


Playbill Cover

I was privileged that when I went to London I was one of the speakers at the pre-performance panel of Yarico. Another speaker was James McConnell, who was the composer of the music. It was very interesting to hear his thinking about how he created the music. The other person was Aidan McQuade, executive director of Anti-Slavery International. The point that he was putting out was that slavery remains endemic across the world, and that here is a powerful play which makes us aware of that fact, even though it’s historical in its setting.

When you began researching and compiling together this obscure but fascinating tale of Inkle & Yarico, did you ever think it would lead to this event in London, in that the story would be revived in such a way?

Well I didn’t necessarily think it would do that, but I had to pursue the story. One of the things that I found totally fascinating, and you probably read that in English Trader, Indian Maid, was how the historical Yarico was an Amerindian and, as one sees the story develop, she becomes Africanized in later accounts. I think that is very important because it ties in with the transatlantic slave trade. There are various explanations that denote people’s indifference to this transformation or suggest their inability to discriminate between groups. Many eighteenth-century Europeans must have felt that native peoples, irrespective of their origin, were all “others,” that they’re all “inferior.” You could relate that to politics today: do people really know what’s truly happening? Are we sufficiently aware of racial and ethnic differences?

Quakers, Anti-Slavery, and the Underground Freedom Center

By Nikole Darnell

On February 7, the staff members of the Digital Literature Review took a trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The experience was phenomenal; each member took a particular interest in various aspects of the museum and learned a great deal. Having an extensive Quaker heritage, I was particularly interested in the role that members of the Quaker church played in helping oppressed slaves escape to freedom.

Photo taken by author

Quaker Facts (Photo taken by author)

When people hear about Quakers and the Underground Railroad, they often picture a strict and pious group of people who were unconditionally against slavery and opened up their homes to runaways. I admit, I often thought this as well in my younger years. While Quakers did aid slaves on their journeys to freedom, this wasn’t always the case. According to displays at the museum, prior to 1740, many members of the Quaker church actively participated in the purchasing and selling of enslaved people. I was personally surprised to learn this. Ever since I was little, I had been told that all Quakers were against slavery and that they always had been. The museum states that the church initially did not oppose slavery, but over time they became disgusted by the practice and set out to do something about it. The Freedom Center does an excellent job of demonstrating how Quakers participated in the Underground Railroad and led the way in the antislavery movement.

As one travels through the museum, they find themselves walking a timeline, following the lives of brave men and women who dedicated their lives to the cause of abolitionism. Quaker minister Samuel Hopkins was one of these people. In 1758, the Quaker church, led by Hopkins, voted to exclude members who continued to participate in the purchasing or selling of slaves. The museum credits Hopkins as one of the first people to actively argue for antislavery. His ideas spread, and by 1776, the majority of the Quaker church opposed the practice of slavery. From this time until emancipation in 1865, many Quakers across the nation offered their homes to escaped slaves and helped them find their way to freedom. Throughout the museum, several donated artifacts that belonged to individual abolitionists are visible, such as a ceramic figure of Uncle Tom and a first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Quaker abolitionists depicted at the Freedom Center are Levi and Catharine Coffin. According to the museum, the Coffins turned their home in Newport, Indiana into a safe house, and it is estimated that they hid over 2000 runaways. In 1847, they moved to Cincinnati and opened a warehouse that produced goods exclusively made by paid labor. From 1861 until their deaths, the Coffins raised money to benefit the education of former slaves. In a single year alone, they managed to raise more than $100,000. Today, their house in Newport (now known as Fountain City, Indiana) is open as a museum and as a surviving testament to the kindhearted work that the Coffins accomplished throughout their lives. I feel that the Freedom Center’s exhibit on the Coffins would be strengthened by possibly borrowing artifacts from the Coffin House Museum. As it currently stands, the Freedom Center has little on the Coffins other than very generic information. After all, at one point, Levi Coffin was known as the “president of the Underground Railroad.”

(Photo taken by author)

(Photo taken by author)

While I previously knew about Quaker involvement in the anti-slavery movement, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center also showed how many Quakers were also strong proponents of women’s suffrage. As a result, they highlight the ways that many activists took on multiple and connected instances of injustice. Well-known activist Susan B. Anthony grew up in a Quaker household and dedicated her life to abolition and women’s suffrage. Likewise, fellow Quaker and suffragette Lucretia Mott actively participated in anti-slavery propaganda. In 1833, she attended the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society, the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention, and the 1848 “Declaration of Sentiments” meeting at Seneca Falls. Afterwards in 1850, she published her book, Discourse on Women.

According to the Freedom Center, writing became a very powerful tool that the Quakers used to combat slavery. In 1857, Daniel Worth circulated Hinton Rowan Helper’s The Impending Crisis of the South, which stated that slavery would undoubtedly lead to the South’s downfall. Worth was arrested in North Carolina for promoting the book under the pretenses of violating the state’s “incendiary publications” law of 1830. This law banned books that portrayed slaves being unhappy in their given situation. The Freedom Center also displays other famous Quaker writers of this time, including the Grimké sisters, Angelia and Sarah. In 1835, Angelina Grimké published a pamphlet entitled, An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, which pleaded with women of the time to oppose slavery and stated that slavery went against Christian values. Along with display, the museum has an abundant amount of information about how Quakers were actively involved in abolitionist activities.

I found my visit to Cincinnati’s Underground Railroad Freedom Center to be an incredibly invaluable experience. The museum does an effective job of arranging the exhibits so that they display slavery in a sensitive manner, while still portraying its evils and providing an educational experience for the public. Any visitor to the museum will learn a great deal about the struggles and oppression of slaves and their journey to freedom. Additionally, it manages to preserve the history of abolitionism and depict how certain groups, such as the Quakers, played a role in putting an end to one of America’s darkest periods. Whether it’s hiding runaway slaves or publishing work about the atrocities of slavery, Quakers certainly made their mark in the world of abolitionism. I personally learned a lot about these courageous people and I feel confident in saying that many future visitors will as well.