A document of slavery in upstate New York.

From July 27 to August 2, 2011 I will be an artist in residence at the Genesee Center for the Arts and Education.

During this time, I will be letterpress printing a limited edition pamphlet containing excerpts of chapter 11, Thought on Freedom, from Austin Steward’s autobiography Twenty-two Years a Slave, and Forty Years a Freeman. 2012 marks the 155th anniversary of the book’s publication in Rochester. I will handset the text in metal type from the extensive collection at Genesee Center for the Arts & Education.

Stop by during the day between 7/27-8/2 to see the work in progress or come to an artist talk Friday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.

More about the project:

Austin Stewart’s autobiography was published by William Alling, one of the first booksellers in Western New York, on Exchange Street in Rochester in 1857. Part of the narrative describes the first twenty-two years of Stewart’s life as a slave in Sodus and Bath, New York.

History is based on what survives in memory and in printed publications. However, memory, paper and bindings all eventually disintegrate. What ends up being established as history is what is most often repeated, and the contents of the books that were published in the largest editions.

In 2011, a little less than 150 years after slavery was outlawed, the United States is still divided by the discrepancies of history along Mason/Dixon line. Those on each side have their own simplified version. I have lived in New York, Chicago, Alabama and now Mississippi. I believe the history of race is actually a single shared national history. One can associate slavery, race riots and racism with the South, but it doesn’t take much research to find the exact same history in the North.

Genesee Center for the Arts and Education

713 Monroe Avenue

Rochester, NY 14607