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Jessica Parr

Professor of the Practice in History

Jessica Parr (she/they) is a historian of the Early Modern Atlantic, specializing in race and memory long eighteenth century, as well as in digital humanities, and archival studies. They are the author of Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon (U. Press of Mississippi). The book explores Whitefield’s development as a symbol shaped in the complexities of revivalism, the contest over religious toleration, and the conflicting roles of Christianity for enslaved people. Evangelical Christianity’s emphasis on “freedom in the eyes of God,” combined with the problems that the rhetoric of the Revolution posed for slavery, also suggested a path to political freedom.

Parr an edited collection of the selected papers of eighteenth-century British physician/clergymen/abolitionist James Ramsay under contract with the University of Georgia Press. These papers draw on a collection of research notes, drafts, and correspondence compiled by James Ramsay in the course of his writing of two abolitionist pamphlets published in 1784. The first was An Essay on the Treatment and Conversion of African Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies, and the second was An Inquiry into the Effects of Putting a Stop to the African Slave Trade: And of Granting Liberty to the Slaves in the British Sugar Colonies (1784). Ramsay’s pamphlets helped to draw attention to the public debate over slavery in Great Britain, as well as capturing the eye of the Bishop of London, who oversaw the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel’s plantations in the sugar colonies.

Their manuscript project explores the geographies of print created by Black anti-slavery activists as they navigated the political and social structures that codified and perpetuated slavery between 1760 and 1860. One of the questions this book will explore was how African American activists’ responses to the diasporan entanglements with slavery changed from the eighteenth-century, with writers like Phillis Wheatley, Prince Hall, and Lemuel Hayes, to nineteenth-century writers like David Walker, Alexander Crummell, and Maria Stewart. The book then uses critical race theory and digital humanities methodology to argue that these activists created geographies of resistance that were shaped around the structures of slavery and white supremacy. Dr. Parr’s most recent work involves a second monograph project under contract with the University of North Carolina Press called  Entangled Places: Black Antislavery Politics and the Geographic Imaginaries of the British Atlantic World (working title).

Parr’s work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the John Hope Franklin Institute at Duke University, Boston Athenaeum, the Congregational Library, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, the Methodist Archives of Drew University, the Caroliana Society, the Bright Institute at Knox College, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. They were elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2015 and are also Global Team leader for the prize-winning multilingual digital humanities journal, The Programming Historian, a Member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and a past president of the New England Historical Association.

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  • Education

    PhD, History, 2012, University of New Hampshire at Durham

    MA, History, 2012, University of New Hampshire at Durham

    MA, History, 2005, Simmons College

    MS, Archives Management, Simmons College

    BA, History, Simmons College

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