August 16, 2012 | 1:59 p.m.
By Samantha Allgood '12
AnneMarie Kooistra, associate professor of history, was selected as one of 28 faculty members to participate in the CIC/Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Slave Narratives seminar at Yale University this summer. Led by Yale Professor David Blight, the seminar facilitated discussion and teaching on key texts that overlap with Kooistra’s core teaching load in Western Humanities and American history courses. “I hoped, first and foremost, that the seminar would rejuvenate and deepen my teaching about slavery and personal narratives,” says Kooistra. “I also believed it would provide useful insights into the complexity of racial identity, conflict, and cooperation that I could share with the larger Bethel community.”
Together, the scholars dissected slave narratives, dialoguing on the personalized devastation for slaves, ex-slaves, free blacks, and the larger white society. The issues of freedom, embedded racism, and discrimination in northern states were also examined. “The stories we read emphasized that slavery not only had a brutalizing effect on the slave, but it also had a brutalizing effect on the white owners and the larger culture in general,” says Kooistra. “Given the pervasiveness and brutality of the slave system, the resourcefulness, strength, will, and intelligence of the slaves and ex-slaves was something we discussed in great detail.”
Blight noted that the participants created a “sizzling intellectual community” for the discussion of different views on the texts and issues of race, and Kooistra mentions the benefit of mutual respect in generating worthy and helpful conversation influential in transforming teaching. “I hope that with my renewed appreciation for the complexity and beauty of these slave narratives,” she says, “I can create a miniature version of that sizzling intellectual community here on campus.”