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Full Equality, Torn Apart: A performance/scholarly dialogue between Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
April 1 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm$10
A performance/scholarly dialogue between Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Portrayed and interpreted by Charles Everett Pace and Sally Roesch Wagner.
Join Historic Huguenot Street as we virtually welcome back Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner for a special performance and scholarly discussion with her friend and fellow historian Charles Everett Pace.
Awarded one of the first doctorates in the country for work in women’s studies (UC Santa Cruz) and a founder of one the first college-level women’s studies programs in the United States (CSU Sacramento), Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner has taught women’s studies courses for 50 years. She edited the intersectional anthology, The Women’s Suffrage Movement (Penguin Classics, 2019) and currently serves as an adjunct faculty member in The Renée Crown University Honors Program at Syracuse University and at the St. John Fisher Executive Leadership Program.
She wrote the faculty guide for Not for Ourselves Alone, Ken Burns’ documentary on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and has appeared in that film and numerous other history films and radio programs. Dr. Wagner was selected as one of “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” by Women’s E-News in 2015. She serves on the New York Suffrage Centennial Commission. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center for Social Justice Dialogue in Fayetteville, New York, she received the Katherine Coffey Award for outstanding service to museology from the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums in 2012.
Charles Everett Pace has undergraduate and graduate degrees from The University of Texas at Austin (B.A., biology) and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana (M.A., American studies: history and anthropology). As well as being a Program Advisor at the Texas Union, University of Texas at Austin, Charles has taught at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Purdue University, and most recently at Centre College in Kentucky. His research area is the anthropology of performance, experience and visual communications. He has performed and conducted workshops in hundreds of cities across the United States, as well as, in London, England. Pace has also conducted performance based public diplomacy work for the United States Information Agency (USIA) in dozens of cities in nine countries across east, west, and southern Africa. His extensive Chautauqua work provides the background for his latest work in “Taking the Lead: Creative Leadership Training for Today’s Students.” In 2009, Pace as Du Bois was the featured presenter at the 100th Anniversary of the founding of The Crisis Magazine. The Crisis, the official journal of the NAACP was founded and edited by Du Bois in New York City. This event was held at the New York Times building and was sponsored by the national office of the NAACP.
American feminism was born of the abolitionist movement, with its powerful insistence on universal equality. Before the Civil War, abolitionists and feminists, male and female, worked together for an end to slavery and a new definition of citizenship in which rights would not be limited by race or gender. During the war feminists put aside the campaign for women’s rights to join in the struggle to end slavery. But when Congress had to rewrite the Constitution to abolish enslavement and declare citizenship for the formerly enslaved, abolitionists and women’s rights activists joined together to work for universal suffrage. The Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, decreed that all people born in the United States were citizens who must enjoy equal protection of the law. But for the first time, the amendment introduced the word “male” into the Constitution, defining citizens as male only. The Fifteenth Amendment gave black men the vote, but allowed the state laws barring women from voting to stand.
These measures launched the era known as Radical Reconstruction, the first experiment in interracial democracy (for men) in our history. For the first time, large numbers of African-American men voted and held office. Mississippi elected two black men to the Senate. But feminists like Stanton saw abolitionist support for these male-only laws and amendments as a betrayal of the movement’s longstanding commitment to full equality. A bitter controversy ensued, which resulted in Stanton and her supporters cutting their ties with their allies and forming an independent national organization to promote women’s suffrage. Supporters of the amendments, on the other hand, believed these measures were necessary to protect all African-Americans from oppression in the aftermath of slavery. They saw the enfranchisement of black men as a step toward universal suffrage, not a retreat from it.
This episode has come down to us as the feminist- abolitionist split, but the story is more complicated. What actually happened was a split within the movement for universal suffrage caused by Congress when that body forced people to take sides. Not all blacks supported the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments; not all feminists opposed them.
The point is not that one position was right and one wrong; this powerful alliance was torn-apart with both sides offering cogent arguments. The conflict raises the question of whether it’s better to allow partial reform, excluding one marginalized group, or to hold out for a complete measure. One thing we can learn from their experience is that debating who is more oppressed is a fool’s game. Advocates of the rights of African-Americans and women achieve more working together than fighting among themselves.
General admission: $10
Discounted admission: $8 (HHS members, seniors, students, active military members, and veterans)