Literary Tourgée

deadline for submissions: 
January 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Literary Tourgée Conference at the Chautauqua Institution
contact email: 



"Literary Tourgée"

Conference at Chautauqua Institution

Sept 27-29, 2019

Inquiries to Sandra Gustafson (

Proposal Deadline 15 January 2019


Inviting proposals for panels and individual submissions

Proposal deadline:  15 January 2019

Send a 250-word proposal for a paper or panel and cv(s) of presenter(s) to

Sandra Gustafson (


Organizing Committee:  Carrie Bramen (Buffalo), Tess Chakkalakal (Bowdoin), Sandra Gustafson (Notre Dame), Greg Laski (Air Force Academy), Robert Levine (Maryland), and Shirley Samuels (Cornell)



Keynote Address by Kenneth W. Warren

Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor of English

University of Chicago

Author of Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism

and What was African American Literature?


Opening Panel on "Writing Tourgée's Life"

with Mark Elliott (UNC-Greensboro) and Carolyn Karcher (Temple)

Chaired by Tess Chakkalakal (Bowdoin)


Closing Panel on "New Directions in Tourgée Studies"

with Nancy Bentley (Penn), Melissa Daniels-Rauterkus (USC), John Ernest (Delaware), Jennifer Greeson (Virginia), and Jeannine de Lombard (Santa Barbara)

Chaired by Greg Laski (Air Force Academy)


Albion Tourgée (1838-1905) was a major force for social, legal, and literary transformation in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Best known for his Reconstruction novels A Fool's Errand (1879) and Bricks without Straw (1880) and for his role in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Tourgée was a prolific writer who published more than a dozen other novels and a volume of short stories, as well as nonfiction works of history, law, and politics.  An Ohio native and Civil War veteran, Tourgée moved to North Carolina after the war and devoted himself to the Reconstruction effort.  In 1881 he moved from North Carolina to the small town of Mayville, New York, located on the train line from Chicago to Buffalo and a few miles from Chautauqua Institution, which was itself rapidly becoming a force for social transformation. 


Founded as a Methodist camp meeting in 1874, Chautauqua Institution quickly grew from its religious roots into a center for education, literature, and the arts, with a commitment to civil society and a far-reaching network.  Its location was closely tied to its mission.  Western New York had long been a locus of reform activity, including woman’s suffrage, civil rights, and utopian communities.  The underground railroad ran through the region.  Frederick Douglass called Rochester home for twenty-five years, and during that time Tourgée attended the University there.  Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton lived near Seneca Falls, where the first woman's suffrage convention was held.  It was also a region of religious ferment, known to evangelical Protestants as a the "burned-over district," as well as being the home of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, and a center of Spiritualism, practiced at nearby Lily Dale Assembly. 


After settling in Mayville, Tourgée wrote novels on a range of topics, from early Mormonism to Christian socialism to Christopher Columbus.  He also produced a volume of short stories.  In 1882 he launched Our Continent:  an illustrated weekly magazine, an ambitious periodical that featured fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, until it folded in 1884.  He continued to publish in a variety of journalistic outlets including the Chicago Daily Inter Ocean, where his widely read "Bystander" columnaddressed such topics as lynching, disfranchisement, and civil rights.  The column was reprinted in the African American press, and he collaborated with Ida B. Wells on her anti-lynching campaign.  He worked closely with Charles Chesnutt to build support for other African American literary and journalistic projects, and he ran literary contests for African American writers.


Tourgée has attracted a burst of scholarly attention in recent years.  Since 2006 there have been two conferences devoted to his legal career and civil rights activism, two new biographies, a volume of his writings and speeches, and a new edition of Bricks without Straw.  Most of this scholarship has focused on his Reconstruction and civil rights activities.  There has been little attention to him as a literary figure or to the connection between his literary activities and his legal and social reform work.


This conference aims to change the way that we view Tourgée by highlighting his contributions as a writer and editor, and as a supporter of African American writers.  Held at historic Chautauqua Institution -- less than five miles from his Mayville home, and itself an important shaper of U.S. culture in the late nineteenth century -- the conference will highlight the full spectrum of his literary works and cultural engagements to uncover a Tourgée whose anti-racist commitments were the most prominent thread in the broader fabric of his work. 


We hope to develop a volume of essays from the work presented at the conference, as well as a volume of selections from his fiction and/or scholarly editions of Button's Inn and Muravale Eastman, Christian Socialist.


We invite proposals for individual papers and panels on such topics as:


  • Tourgée's Reconstruction fiction in Northern or comparative North-South contexts
  • His other novels, including:
    •  Button's Inn (1887).  On early Mormonism, set near Mayville.
    • Murvale Eastman, Christian Socialist (1890).  Christian social thought was important to Chautauqua Institution.
    • Out of the Sunset Sea (1893) on Columbus.  Tourgée was involved with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The volume has illustrations by his daughter Aimée Tourgée, who was an artist in her own right. 
    • Also:  Toinette (1874); Figs and Thistles: A Western Story (1879); 'Zouri's Christmas (1881); John Eax and Marmelon; or, The South Without the Shadow (1882); Hot Plowshares (1883); Black Ice (1888); With Gauge and Swallow, Attorneys (1889); Pactolus Prime (1890); '89 (1891); A Son of Old Harry (1892); An Outing with the Queen of Hearts (1894); The Mortgage on the Hip-Roof House (1896)
    • His short fiction collection The Man Who Outlived Himself (1898)
    • Tourgée as literary entrepreneur (author, editor, columnist, sponsor of book prizes)
    • Tourgée's collaborations with African American writers and reformers, including Charles Chesnutt, Frank J. Webb, and Ida B. Wells
    • Tourgée and race
    • Tourgée and women’s rights:  Susan B. Anthony inscribed a copy of her autobiography to Tourgée, and he is referenced in suffragist speeches
    • Law and literature perspectives on Tourgée
    • Tourgée's professional networks at Chautauqua Institution, in Buffalo, Chicago, and elsewhere
    • How Tourgée's works relate to relevant literary movements and genres:  realism, the literature of Reconstruction, regionalism, the political novel, or others
    • The nexus of literature, religion, and social reform in western New York



Transportation and Accommodations:


Chautauqua Institution is located two hours south of Buffalo, NY; three hours southwest of Ithaca, NY: an hour north of Erie, PA; two and a half hours from Pittsburgh; two hours east of Cleveland, OH.  The region is served by Buffalo Niagara International Airport.  Transportation will be available from the Buffalo airport to Chautauqua.  Erie International Airport is an hour drive and may be convenient.


There is a block of reasonably priced rooms available at Chautauqua Suites for around $89.99/night, with transportation available from the Suites to the conference location.  There may be accommodations available on the Institute grounds.  Details tbd.


Founded in 1874, the Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit, 750-acre educational center beside Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York State, with a focus on civil society and the arts.  The beautifully maintained Victorian-era facilities include lecture and performance venues, hotels and guest houses, and a main square with eating establishments and a substantial bookstore.  More information is available on the website


These online archives and other resources are available to facilitate research:


Chautauqua Institution Archives ( 

There are 137 hits on Tourgée in the Chautauqua Herald, including ads for his works; announcements of his speeches; and a few transcripts of speeches.

There is also an account of an 1883 event with Tourgée and a Confederate speaker and singers performing Civil War songs.


McClurg Museum holdings (Chautauqua Historical Society in Westfield): 

An archive of his correspondence, notebooks, and other items is available at

Index of Tourgée papers:


Select bibliography:


Mark Elliott, Color Blind Justice:  Albion Tourgée and the Quest for Racial Equality from the Civil War to Plessy v. Ferguson (Oxford, 2006)


----------, co-ed. Undaunted Radical: The Selected Writings and Speeches of Albion W. Tourgée

(LSU P, 2010)


Sandra M. Gustafson, " Democracy and Discussion: Albion Tourgée on Race and the Town Meeting Ideal," J19 5, no. 2 (Fall 2017): pp. 389-396


Carolyn L. Karcher, ed. Introduction to Bricks without Straw (Duke, 2009)


----------, A Refugee from His Race: Albion W. Tourgée and His Fight Against White Supremacy (UNCP, 2016)


Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle, Writing Reconstruction:  Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South (UNCP, 2015)


Brook Thomas, The Literature of Reconstruction (JHUP, 2016)


Past conferences:


The 2008 conference in Jamestown, NY:


The 2011 conference in Raleigh, NC: