This born-digital, open access, educational resource documents the life and work of artist and writer Gwendolyn Bennett (July 8, 1902 – May 30, 1981). The website—the multimedia equivalent of a scholarly book geared toward general audiences—will present a series of “scenes” that illuminate significant moments in her life, art, and writings. This scenic structure reflects the fragmentary nature of Bennett’s corpus and the gaps in the record of her life story. Using digital storytelling and inclusive UX (user experience) design, this website aims to draw you into Bennett’s work and encourage you to participate in the larger, ongoing project of centering women of color in American cultural histories.
I approach Bennett’s creative expression as acts of joy and defiance that challenge how Black bodies were represented in the White-dominated, verbal-visual economies of modernity. My methodology is informed by Black feminist scholars Hazel Carby, Saidiya Hartman, and Heather Williams, who mobilize personal histories, archival fragments, and literary imagination to resurrect the lives and aspirations of Black women who have been marginalized in the historical record.
Following the practice of the New York Times, I capitalize “Black” to refer to people and cultures of African origin or descent because doing so conveys respect for a “shared history and identity”; I use lowercase “white” because “there is less of a sense that ‘white’ describes a shared culture and history. Moreover, hate groups and white supremacists have long favored the uppercase style, which in itself is reason to avoid it.”
Who we are
This website is researched, designed, and developed by Dr. Suzanne W. Churchill, Professor of English at Davidson College. Although it is technically a “single author” project, it could not be developed or sustained without the research of many other scholars; feedback from colleagues, students, and readers; and the support and expertise of librarians, technologists, and administrators at my home institution and other research libraries.
Academic journals and university presses subject scholarly work to a rigorous process of double-blind peer review before publishing it. This process involves sending the manuscript to two experts in the field, who read and evaluate the work without knowing who produced it. The editors share the anonymous reader’s reports with the manuscript author(s). All of this work takes place behind the scenes with a great deal of secrecy. But pioneering scholars like Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University, have begun to advocate for more open forms of peer review, based on an “understanding [of] scholarly work an ongoing process of discovery and exchange and conversation that benefits from openness in fostering greater collaboration and dialogue” (Fitzpatrick, “Opening Up Peer Review”).
In the spirit of ongoing discovery and conversation about Gwendolyn Bennett’s life and work, I invite readers to use the online annotating tool Hypothesis to provide constructive feedback on the content and design of this site. Feedback is a gift: I am grateful for your time, attention, and insights, and will do my best to respond to your comments thoughtfully and respectfully.
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