Invisible Roads: Curatorial Aesthetics and the Study of the Underground Railroad

Authors: J. Peter Moore*, Purdue University
Topics: Black Geographies, Education , United States
Keywords: Fugitivity, Study, Underground Railroad, Curatorial Impulse
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Aesthetics considerations of fugitivity consistently figure the artist, writer and performer not as expressive source but as compiler, archivist and curator. The curatorial impulse has generated no shortage of intertextual works in the field of black studies. Arthur Jafa’s _A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions_, Saidiya Hartman’s _Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments_, and Theaster Gates’s _True Value_ are but three contemporary examples. The proposed writing seeks to review the curatorial impulse as it relates to the aesthetics of fugitivity before shifting to considering the implications of this impulse on the recording of spatial contingencies, particularly those connected to the Underground Railroad. I use these examples to build a framework for appreciating the work of amateur historian and political organizer Hurley Goodall. In 2000, Goodall compiled _The Invisible Road to Freedom_, a 350-page document, collecting previously unpublished materials from the Federal Writers Project of the 1930s, tracing through oral history and textual records the various “stations” of the Underground Railroad throughout Indiana. The paper concludes with a reflection on the experience of building an interdisciplinary college course around Goodall's text at a stem-focused state institution in Indiana, as well as a proposal for continued study.

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