“Troubled Like the Restless Sea, Frederick Douglass and the Profusion of Luxury in Early America,” Dr. R. Ruthie Dibble, Curator of The Chipstone Foundation and Dr. Tiffany Momon, Assistant Professor at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Over 150 years after the publication of My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass’s rhetorical genius still offers new insights into American art and history. Co-curators Drs. Ruthie Dibble and Tiffany Momon illuminate how a passage from Douglass’s autobiography became the basis of a collaborative curatorial intervention at the Milwaukee Art Museum that explores the troubled status of luxury goods in early America. Douglass’s words, along with those of other writers who bore witness to the injustices that shaped luxury goods in early America, offer new ways to think about the intersections of slavery, settler colonialism, and the “profusion of luxury” that filled many American homes in the 1800s. Prompted by Douglas’s observation that luxury goods of enslaver households were “Troubled, like the restless sea,” the speakers will explore how undercurrents of power and profit shaped iconic examples of luxury goods, from the first porcelain made in America to the ornate furniture crafted in New York City for Cuban plantations.