Season Two, Episode Six

Topsy’s Afterlives:
Dr. Brigitte Fielder on Black Girlhood, Past and Present

Transcript coming soon!

In this episode, we welcome Dr. Brigitte Fielder, whose scholarship focuses on African American literature and culture of the nineteenth century – when real life offered plenty of terrifying material, particularly for Black children. Dr. Fielder shares her research on how children are held up as sites where racial histories are constructed, revisited, and reimagined, from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Misha Green’s HBO series Lovecraft Country, from minstrel shows to picture books to school curricula.

Dr. Fielder is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin. She is the author of Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America (Duke UP, 2020) and the co-editor of Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print (U of Wisconsin P, 2019). Her work has been published in journals such as American Quarterly, Legacy, J19, and American Literary History, and in various edited collections. She is currently working on a book about racialized human-animal relationships in the long nineteenth century, which shows how childhood becomes a key site for humanization and racialization. 

Follow Dr. Fielder on Twitter @BrigField. See the reading list below for more of Dr. Fielder’s scholarship and links to some of the titles she mentions.


reading list

Bennett, Joshua. Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man. Harvard University Press, 2020.

Fielder, Brigitte, Break the Great Chain of Being: On Becoming Human and Being Property Once Myself.” LA Review of Books, November 17, 2021.

–––––. Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America. Duke University Press, 2020. 

–––––. “Why Animal Studies Must Be Antiracist: A Conversation with Bénédicte Boisseron.” Edge Effects, March 26, 2019.

Fielder, Brigitte, and Jonathan Senchyne, eds. Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print. University of Wisconsin Press, 2019.

Jackson, Zakiyyah Iman. Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World. New York University Press, 2020.

Johnson, Sarah E. “‘You Should Give Them Blacks to Eat’: Waging Inter-American Wars of Torture and Terror.” American Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 1, March 2009, pp. 65–92.

The Lamplighter Picture Book, or, The Story of Uncle True and and Little Gerty. John P. Jewett and Company, 1855.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. 1852.

Thomas, Ebony Elizabeth. Twitter thread on Topsy and Bopsy. October 5, 2020.


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