In the following booklet, 2021 Exemplary Project Grant recipient Jehan Roberson (PhD candidate in Literatures in English) reflects on her experience crafting a fictional narrative for the Voices of the Underground Railroad website, an online collection of stories mapped on to documented and rumored underground railroad stations and safe houses in Central and Western New York.
Roberson's creative work—which seeks to be both "historically grounded and fictionally charged"—was a natural fit for the Voices of the Underground website. But her decision to write one of the fictional slave narratives was one that Roberson quickly realized was going to be an emotional endeavor as well as an academic one, a decision that she describes as "driven by grief":
Those of us who are Black and who practice memory work, who journey into Black archives seeking whatever fragments of our history we might stitch together, in many ways we’re channeling that particularly diasporic sense of loss into searches for the intangible, for an historically impossible sense of wholeness.
Fueled also by the rage that there existed so few women's slave narratives, Roberson sought to write exactly that—the narrative she knew she "would never find."
Read more in "Re-Memory Work: Quilting Black Narratives of Freedom" embedded below:
Funded by the initiative, Exemplary Project Grants showcase Cornell student projects and collaborations from the Spring Seminar, specifically those works in the in public and digital humanities.
Jehan Roberson is a PhD student in the Cornell Department of Literatures in English. [insert rest of bio]