This shared commitment to multidisciplinarity and collaboration brought the Newberry and RaceB4Race® together more than three years ago to envision this project. In addition to the catalogue and exhibition, Seeing Race Before Race includes enduring resources for scholars, school teachers, and the public. As this project encourages both scholarly and public audiences to see race and expressions of racial thinking across the vast visual archive from centuries ago, we hope it will lead to deeper understandings not only of the past, but also of present and future expressions of race and racism.
The Seeing Race Before Race project has relied on contributions from staff at the Newberry Library and the RaceB4Race® collective. Noémie Ndiaye, Assistant Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern English Literature at the University of Chicago and Executive Board Member of RaceB4Race®, has been an essential collaborator with Newberry co-curators, Lia Markey, Christopher Fletcher, and Rebecca Fall, in providing curatorial vision for this exhibition and accompanying publication. Noémie and Lia brought together a dedicated community through this project, including both colleagues and students in their research process. Here, they have collected contributions from 39 individuals, including undergraduate and graduate students who helped write catalog entries. The book also highlights collaborative essays written by senior and early career scholars in diverse disciplines.
The Seeing Race Before Race book received generous funding from the Kress Foundation to defray the costs of publication. We’re also grateful to the University of Chicago Quad Undergraduate Research Scholars Program, which supported research by graduate assistant Vivian Lei. ACMRS Press, the publications division of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University, has been an essential partner in the production process of Seeing Race Before Race. And the stunning images of Newberry collection items included here are the work of staff photographer Catherine Gass.
It is our hope that this volume will inspire further collaborative, multidisciplinary projects. The co-editors, our institutions, and the RaceB4Race® collective have all benefited from seeing and thinking about the racial matrix anew. While this volume is innovative in its scope and focus, it is also intended to inspire other scholars, teachers, students, and artists to see and interpret archival materials in new ways. What have we not seen? How do we continue to challenge ourselves to see anew?
— Ayanna Thompson
Regents Professor of English and Director of the
Arizona Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies,
Arizona State University
— Daniel Greene
President and Librarian, Newberry Library