Programs and Events

Alongside our interdisciplinary seminar, the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture sponsors interdisciplinary conferences, lectures, workshops, and other events both on and off-campus. We also coordinate with various existing graduate student workshops on campus.  Students interested in collaborating with the Scherer Center should contact Tara Rutledge.

Current Series: Conversations in American Culture


The Matter of Black Living: The Aesthetic Experiment of Racial Data, 1880-1930 with Autumn Womack

Thursday May 5, 2022

6:00pm -7:00pm CST (via Zoom)

REGISTER HERE (And please see below for information on discounted copies of the book.)

Please join us for a conversation with Autumn Womack on her recent book The Matter of Black Living: The Aesthetic Experiment of Racial Data, 1880–1930 (University of Chicago Press). The discussion will be hosted by Eric Slauter, Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.

About the book: 

As the nineteenth century came to a close and questions concerning the future of African American life reached a fever pitch, many social scientists and reformers approached post-emancipation Black life as an empirical problem that could be systematically solved with the help of new technologies like the social survey, photography, and film. What ensued was nothing other than a “racial data revolution,” one which rendered African American life an inanimate object of inquiry in the name of social order and racial regulation. At the very same time, African American cultural producers and intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Kelly Miller, Sutton Griggs, and Zora Neale Hurston staged their own kind of revolution, un-disciplining racial data in ways that captured the dynamism of Black social life.

The Matter of Black Living excavates the dynamic interplay between racial data and Black aesthetic production that shaped late nineteenth-century social, cultural, and literary atmosphere. Through assembling previously overlooked archives and seemingly familiar texts, Womack shows how these artists and writers recalibrated the relationship between data and Black life. The result is a fresh and nuanced take on the history of documenting Blackness. The Matter of Black Living charts a new genealogy from which we can rethink the political and aesthetic work of racial data, a task that has never been more urgent.

About the author:

Autumn Womack is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and English at Princeton University.

General discount through Seminary Coop:

The Scherer Center is pleased to offer a 15% discount and free shipping for all purchases of The Matter of Black Living made through the Seminary Co-op before May 19th. Please use coupon code WOMACK. You will not ultimately be charged for shipping, though your credit card will be pre-authorized to cover it. We apologize for the inconvenience.  


The Transcendentalists and Their World: A conversation with Robert A. Gross, Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Bancroft Prize-winning historian Robert A. Gross on his new book, The Transcendentalists and Their Worldrecently named one of the top 10 books of 2021 by the Wall Street Journal. The discussion will be hosted by Eric Slauter, Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.

To watch this talk, click here.

The Week: A History of the Unnatural Rhythms That Made Us Who We Are: A conversation with David M. Henkin, Thursday January 27, 2022, 6:00pm -7:00pm CST (via Zoom)

A conversation with David Henkin on his recent book The Week: A History of the Unnatural Rhythms That Made Us Who We Are (Yale University Press), one of the Seminary Co-op’s notable books of 2021. The discussion will be hosted by Eric Slauter, Director of the Karla Scherer Center for the Study of American Culture.

To watch this talk, click here.

Past Events:

Fall 2020 Amending America Series via Zoom

Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience:  The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion

Thursday, October 15, 4:30pm-5:30pm (CST)

Aconversation on the First Amendment between two leading experts on American constitutional law and history, the first in a series of events supported by the Scherer Center focused on the theme of amending America. This conversation, prompted by the recent publication of Jack Rakove’s Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience: The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion (Oxford University Press, 2020) in the Inalienable Rights Series edited by Geoffrey Stone, promises to range across history, politics, and law to address the origins, meanings, and contested legacies of the idea of religious freedom.

Jack N. Rakove is William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Stanford University. He is the author of six books, including Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, finalist for the George Washington Book Prize, and Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, which won the Pulitzer Prize. 

Geoffrey R. Stone is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago and the author of many books on constitutional law, including Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion and Law from America’s Origins to the Twenty-First Century and Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, which received book prizes in political science, law, and history. His next book will be National Security, Leaks and The Freedom of the Press

A Conversation on the Fifteenth Amendment:

Eric Foner (Columbia University) will discuss his recent book, The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, with interlocutor Thomas C. Holt (University of Chicago).

Thursday, October 22, 4:30pm-5:30pm (CST)

Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University, specializes in the Civil War and Reconstruction, slavery, and 19th-century America. He is the author of many works, which include The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery which won the Pulitzer, Bancroft, and Lincoln prizes (2011), as well as Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 (1988), which was the winner, among other awards, of the Bancroft Prize, Parkman Prize, and Los Angeles Times Book Award.

Thomas C. Holt, James Westfall Thompson Professor of American and African American History,  has taught at Howard University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Chicago. Holt’s first book Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina during Reconstruction (1977) won the Sydnor Award from the Southern Historical Association. Another of his books, The Problem of Freedom: Race, Labor, and Politics in Jamaica and Britain, 1832–1938, (1992) was awarded the 1995 Elsa Goveia Prize by the Association of Caribbean Historians. 

Citywide Partnerships

The Scherer Center is a proud co-sponsor of the Newberry Library’s Seminar in American Art and Visual CultureSeminar in Early American History and CultureSeminar in Labor History, the Urban History Dissertation Group, and the Seminar on Women and Gender.