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Louisville Free Public Library: Talk by Susan Ryan

Susan Ryan, who specializes in American literary history and culture, will talk about the river’s signal role as the border between slavery and freedom in the antebellum period--one whose meanings became increasingly opaque as the Compromise of 1850 made even the so-called free states unsafe for fugitives. Using the iconic escape scene from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in which the runaway slave Eliza crosses the frozen Ohio carrying her son, alongside a number of poetic and visual representations that elaborated on or reframed that narrative moment, Ryan shows how antislavery discourse used the river as an emblem of risk and possibility.

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