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Dwitney Bethel ’10 pursues graduate studies at Brock University

Dwitney Bethel, who graduated with History Honours last spring, sends us an update on her academic achievements, and the fascinating research that she has started to work on in St. Catharines.

“I am currently attending Brock University for an M.A. in History (specialization in digital history). I was recently awarded the Dr. Raymond and Mrs. Sachi Moriyama Graduate Fellowship to carry out a local research project. My thesis project will examine free African American women in the northern Unites States and their travel experiences in the mid-nineteenth century. My tentative argument is that travel served as a metaphor of empowerment and identity formation for Northern black women who struggled not only against racial subjugation but gendered exclusion as well. This research is focused on the experiences of Mary Shadd Cary (emigrated to Canada), Nancy Prince (Russia and Jamaica), and Sara Reymond (England). Unlike their black female contemporaries, these women  traveled outside of the United States, and wrote extensively on issues of sexuality, abolition, emigration, and identity. Sadly, these writings have been overlooked historically and labeled as “easily forgotten,” because they do not fit within the context of traditional nineteenth century travel writings or slave narratives due to their overtly political nature. Therefore, my research is secondarily arguing for their historical significance by framing these women as “colored tourist”.  Beyond mere observation and leisure, there is an angle of community/racial uplift and gendered politics that is associated with their travel and major works abroad that this paper will hopefully bring to light.  In sum, my research will highlight the importance of these three black women, as not only complicated heroines, but community builders who relied on their gendered mobility abroad to assert themselves in a manner in which they could not within antebellum America.”