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Cavanaugh Lecture to Explore Intersecting Histories of African American Women and the American Railroad

February 4, 2022

Author and professor Miriam Thaggert will deliver the 2022 Cavanaugh Lecture at St. John Fisher College. Sponsored by the English Department, the event is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 24, in the Golisano Gateway Midlevel, and is free and open to the public.

An image from the cover of the book, Riding Jane Crow: African American Women on the American Railroad.

Thaggert, an associate professor of English at SUNY Buffalo, is the author of Images of Black Modernism: Verbal and Visual Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance and the forthcoming Riding Jane Crow: African American Women on the American Railroad. Her work has appeared in several journals such as African American Review, American Literary History, and American Quarterly. Her research for Riding Jane Crow was supported by fellowships at the Newberry Library and the Virginia Humanities.

Thaggert’s lecture will look at how the experiences of African American women intersected with the American railroad, whose history has long been associated with ingenuity and progress or “a machine in America’s garden.” Using examples from early Black female intellectuals such as Anna Julia Cooper and highlighting the travel experiences of Pauli Murray, the poet/lawyer/scholar/priest who developed the concept of “Jane Crow,” this talk tells the neglected story of Black women and American railroad travel and details how the train impacted Black women’s literal and figurative mobility, a key marker of American citizenship.