[wd_asp id=1]

…waiting to be discovered…


Dec 06 2021


12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Virtual Only

Artists & Historians series

"...waiting to be discovered..."

A conversation between historian Adriane Lentz-Smith and poet Crystal Simone Smith

Join us on Monday, December 6, at noon for an exploration of the role of art in creating knowledge and narratives about slavery, the Civil War, and freedom struggles in the United States. Professor Adriane Lentz-Smith will bring her insights as a historian to bear as she guides this conversation with professor and poet Crystal Simone Smith.

This discussion coincides with the anniversary of the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865.

Author Amber Flora Thomas wrote of Crystal Simone Smith's latest poetry collection, Down to Earth: “Has freedom made us lazy, we might wonder as we read these incredible poems ... Are we tourists in our lives, troubled by a history of enslavement? The voices and stories of black lives penetrate these questions in this collection of poems that don’t coddle or pull away from our earthly struggles to find hope and meaning in our human work. Down to Earth is an asking, a plea to take comfort in the stories and people who anchor our living."


Free and open to the public. Advanced registration required. Sponsored by the Rubenstein Library, Forum for Scholars and Publics, Franklin Humanities Institute, Vice Provost for the Arts, Department of African & African American Studies, Department of History, and MFA|EDA Program at Duke University.

This event is part of a series accompanying the exhibition “’To stand by the side of Freedom’: Abraham Lincoln and 19th Century America,” on view at the Rubenstein Library through May 14, 2022.

ARTISTS & HISTORIANS in conversation

Lincoln exhibit series poster


Update Sept 7, 2022: Read an excerpt from the transcript of the conversation and then watch the full video.

On enslaved people and nature:

Adriane Lentz-Smith: So you write about nature. I mean, it's interesting that for you, haiku takes you to nature. And the contemplation of nature. You write about nature as a site of terror for Black folks, right ...

And I think of that, I guess more kind of ... like where people are dragged out for violence to be done to them, but in slavery it's also the case that nature was a site of escape. Right? So are there other ways then, to thinking about landscape and what it offered people? And I guess I ask that question, thinking about maroons, maroon societies, or thinking about Harriet Tubman. Reading the stars to guide people ...

Crystal Simone Smith: Well, so Blacks are able to see the harshness in nature sometimes, because there's really sort of this... It intensifies our experience with slavery, being in nature and thinking about those sort of things. But for me, the last talk that I gave, it was basically a presentation that if I could sum up my research in three words, I would call it, "nature as captivity." Because that's what it is, it was, for African American enslaved people, to escape. And even the escape in itself, was harsh. Even trying to get to freedom, was harsh. So those are the poems that I was able to compose, and sort of give a lens into that escape.


Watch the full conversation:



Adriane Lentz-Smith

Duke University

Adriane Lentz-Smith is associate professor of history and African & African American studies at Duke University where she teaches courses on Black Lives, the Black Freedom Struggle, and history in fiction and fact. The author of Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I (Harvard, 2009), Lentz-Smith researches and writes…...

Read More
Crystal Simone Smith

Crystal Simone Smith is an award-winning poet, indie-publisher, and educator. She is the author of Dark Testament (Henry Holt, 2023). She also authored three poetry chapbooks, Down To Earth (2020), Running Music (2014) and Routes Home (2013). In 2022, her collection of haiku, Ebbing Shore, won The Haiku Foundation Touchstone…...

Read More

Related Media

Watch the video from the event.

Comments are closed.