Thursday, June 15, 2023 - 17:00

Finding Freedom in Rome: Frederick Douglass’ Romantic Italian Pilgrimage a talk by Dr Renée Schlueter

In his 1886–87 travel diary and 1887 lectures on Europe and Africa, Frederick Douglass, the American writer and social reformer, reveals the racialized context of the Black intellectual traveler. Though Douglass largely follows the conventional Baedeker itinerary on his Grand Tour, the lens of his Black tourist vision gives him something different: the ethnological evidence to “combat American prejudice against the darker colored races, and [to] raise [colored] races in their own estimation.” Indeed, like other Black intellectuals, Douglass had often cited Roman exemplars, even adopting classical Roman oratory to assail the romantic pretense of classical republicanism and virtue of slaveholders. Similarly, Douglass refashions Byron’s Romantic hero in his novella The Heroic Slave (1853) into a model of manly resistance. This talk will explore how Douglass’ gaze reflects and challenges the conventional Protestant travel vision, ultimately reframing theories about race and travel itself.


ADMISSION IS FREE OF CHARGE but booking is mandatory due to the limited number of seats (write to Entry will be allowed from 4:45 p.m.


Dr Renée Schlueter is Professor of English at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her research is focused on integrating the largely neglected gaze of women travel writers and minority travel writers in the Grand Tour tradition. Renée has written chapters and articles on Charlotte Eaton, Mary Shelley, Margaret Fuller, and Frederick Douglass, as well as travel pedagogy. She is currently working on an NEH grant, “Remapping the Roman Grand Tour: Racial and Gender Diversity in the Eternal City,” a digital literary-mapping project designed to enhance a traveler's experience of Roman sites. She is particularly interested in the idea of travel as a form of ‘self-awakening’.