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A Stain on an All-American Brand: How Brooks Brothers Once Clothed Enslaved People

Date and Time: 
Monday, October 5, 2020. 05:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Zoom
Workshop: 
Reframing Fashion Studies: Performance, Gender, and the Body
Meeting Description: 

Today Brooks Brothers is known to many as a somewhat staid, yet still "all-American" heritage brand. In the nineteenth century, Brooks Brothers—which celebrated its bicentennial last year—dressed elite gentlemen as well as their manservants, coachmen, and chauffeurs, many of them in the antebellum South. Thus, like many northern commercial institutions, the storied clothier benefited from the institution of slavery. This intriguing connection will be the focus of a talk by historian Jonathan Michael Square.

Jonathan Michael Square is a writer and historian specializing in fashion and visual culture of the African Diaspora. He has a PhD in history from New York University, a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a BA from Cornell University. He has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Fashion Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Design, and currently at Harvard University. He has written for numerous publications including Fashion Studies Journal, Vestoj, Hyperallergic, and British Art Studies. A proponent in the power of social media as a platform for radical pedagogy, he founded and runs the digital humanities project Fashioning the Self in Slavery and Freedom, which explores the intersection of fashion and slavery.

Katie Lennard, incoming Abbott Lowell Cummings Postdoctoral Fellow in American Material Culture at Boston University, will serve as respondent.

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