The Invisible Home of Frederick Douglass, John W. Jones, & Mark Twain with Jill Spivey Caddell & Shirley Samuels

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To put an exclamation point on Emancipation Week, we offer this special episode of The American Vandal Podcast focused on the Emancipation Day celebration in 1880, particularly Frederick Douglass’s recently-reconstructed speech, “The Lessons of Emancipation To The New Generation.”

The episode brings together three scholars with both personal and professional ties to the Southern Tier of New York to talk about not only the transnational history of emancipation which Douglass offers, but about how the various narratives and arguments of his Emancipation Day address reveal his long relationship with the region in which the speech takes place and appeals directly to the thousands of residents who descended on Elmira in August of 1880.

Jill Spivey Caddell is Instructor of Nineteenth-Century American Literature at University of Kent & Tutor at the Institute of Continuing Education at University of Cambridge. She is also, currently, a Quarry Farm Fellow, and last week delivered a Park Church lecture, “Memory-Building & Memorializing in Elmira: Mark Twain & John W. Jones in Relation.” This is the most recent of several works focused on Jones. Last year she produced an episode of the C19: America In The Nineteenth Century Podcast titled “Monumentalizing John W. Jones” and also published the essay “A Caring Man: Remembering John W. Jones & Mark Twain in Elmira.” She has yet another chapter on Jones in a forthcoming Cambridge Companion, making her the foremost scholar raising awareness about this central, but oft overlooked figure in the history of Elmira, the Underground Railroad, and the American Civil War.

Recent work by Dr. Caddell can also be found in J19: Journal of Nineteenth Century Americanists, Literary Cultures of The Civil War (U George P, 2016), Apollo: The International Art Magazine, and The Conversation.

Shirley Samuels is Professor of Literatures in English & Director of American Studies at Cornell University. Her most recent books are Race & Vision in The Nineteenth Century United States (Rowan & Littlefield, 2019), the Cambridge Companion to Abraham Lincoln (Cambridge UP, 2012), and Reading The American Novel, 1780-1865 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011). In several earlier works she explores the iconography of the Civil War and the intersection of politics, aesthetics, and myth in Nineteenth-Century Women’s Movements, including those concentrated in New York State. She was a Quarry Farm Fellow in 2020, and delivered a Trouble Begins Lecture, “Witnessing the Civil War: In Elmira with Mark Twain.”

Matt Seybold hosts The American Vandal Podcast and is Associate Professor of American Literature & Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College. For Emancipation Week, he reconstructed Douglass’s 1880 lecture from manuscripts and newspaper transcription, as well as wrote two essays, one on the relationship between Douglas and Twain, and another on the relationship between Douglass and the Elmira Advertiser. In recent years, Seybold has produced extensive scholarship about the history of Elmira, notably on what he calls “the gospel of revolt” and Twain’s “quarry farm style.” Also mentioned in this episode are the Crane-Jones letters from The Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection, which Dr. Seybold published last year.