Greater Capital Region Teacher Center
April 24, 2003|
4:15 p.m. Informal Seminar
Assembly Hall, Campus Center
8:00 p.m. Reading
Assembly Hall, Campus Center
UAlbany, Uptown Campus
Jennifer Fleischner's new book is Mrs. Lincoln and Mrs. Keckly: The True Story of the Remarkable Friendship Between a First Lady and a Former Slave (April 2003). The book reveals the complex and largely unexplored relationship between Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckly, an African-American seamstress who was born a slave in Virginia. Celebrated for her talents as a dressmaker, Keckly obtained her freedom in 1855 and moved to the nation's capital where she became the companion, confidante and fashion consultant of the emotionally troubled wife of Abraham Lincoln.
Keckly's privileged knowledge about the intimate details of Lincoln family life in the White House enriched her autobiography, Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, published in 1868. Mary Todd Lincoln often referred to her dismissively as "the colored historian."
Jennifer Fleischner's 1996 book, Mastering Slavery: Memory, Family and Identity in Women's Slave Narratives was hailed by scholars as a brilliant interdisciplinary work that succeeds in illuminating relationships among masters, mistresses and slaves as depicted in the autobiographies of former slaves. The groundbreaking work draws upon the fields of psychoanalysis, literary theory, African-American history and gender studies to uncover the overlooked complexities of slave narratives.
"A stunning achievement, an instance in which heretofore 'marginal' literature is revealed in its astonishing complexity by a critical method not before applied to those very texts. The result is a study that will be heralded, I venture to say, both as one of the very best critical studies of African American literature and one of the best explorations of race and psychoanalysis. . .Fleischner is destined to emerge as a central figure in American literary studies, and in race and psychoanalytic studies." - Henry Louis Gates, Jr, Harvard scholar and Afro-American Studies chairman
Fleischner is also the author of several nonfiction books for young readers, including I Was Born a Slave: The Life of Harriet Jacobs (1997), The Dred Scott Case: Testing the Right to Live Free (1996), The Inuit: People of the Arctic (1995) and The Apaches: The People of the Southwest (1994).
"a well-written biography that also sheds light on one of America's darkest and most bitter eras." - Kirkus Reviews on I Was Born a Slave
Fleischner also served as a contributing editor for the children's literature textbook, The American Experience (1990) and the reference work The Scholastic Encyclopedia of American Presidents (1994).
Jennifer Fleischner taught in the English Department at the University at Albany from 1986 until 2002, and served as Director of Undergraduate Studies for a number of years beginning in 1996. In 1993-94, she received a prestigious Andrew W. Mellon Faculty Fellowship to teach at Harvard University. In September 2002, she left the University at Albany to serve as Full Professor and Chair of English at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.