Inspired at Mason: Alumni Spotlight

Inspired at Mason: Alumni Spotlight
Lee Ann Timreck, Folklore Program Alumni (2016) and Author of Pieces of Freedom

At Mason's Folklore Program, we love seeing our alumni move into the professional world. For one of our recent alumni, this transition included publishing her first book! 

Lee Ann Timreck graduated with a Certificate in Folklore Studies in 2016. During her studies, her focus areas wereand still areAfrican American folklore and material culture. She was specifically interested in what these themes tell us about the history and culture of marginalized individuals. As an interdisciplinary program, the Folklore Studies curriculum not only exposed her to folklore but also provided opportunities to analyze how cultures are shaped by their history, art, music, literature, and more. 

As part of her coursework at Mason, Timreck took an Art History class focused on material culture. At the time, she had just moved to Richmond, Virginia, where voices were being raised on the topic of the Confederate monuments. Through her coursework, she better understood the power of public art to influence culture through its visual narrative and acquired the skills to analyze Richmond’s Confederate memorial landscape.

This focus led her to explore two emancipation-themed statues as both material culture and historical artifacts, serving as primary sources about the history and culture of the Black emancipation experience from the perspective of those who lived it. She was encouraged by Folklore faculty member, Prof. Debra Lattanzi Shutika, to present her research at the annual American Folklore Society conference. While there, she was approached by University Press of Mississippi and asked if she would be interested in writing a book based on her conference paper

Pieces of Freedom was inspired by the emancipation sculptures of Mary Edmonia Lewis, Forever Free, and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, Emancipation, (below) and their brilliant visualizations of the Black emancipation experience. Lewis’ and Fuller’s personal experiences as Black female artists shaped their visual narrative, and their insight into the lives of a newly emancipated people influenced their historical narrative.

                  Edmonia Lewis’s emancipation sculpture, Forever Free                 Meta Warrick Fuller’s emancipation sculpture, Emancipation

Timreck's book not only celebrates these two amazing women but gives voice to their artistic narrative of the injustices and sacrifices, as well as accomplishments, made by so many in their pursuit of freedom. By exploring the artists' visual narrative of Black emancipation through the lens of nineteenth-century political, racial, and gendered influences, the book tells a story, rather than just a history, of the first fifty years of Black freedom.

In Timreck's words:

"Hope is the message. Yes, Forever Free and Emancipation depict a moral narrative of America’s failure to create a nation where everyone is created equal, and a historical narrative of a people subjected to incredible pain and violence in the name of white superiority. But their art also depicts a people fueled by purpose and hope, challenging America’s racial prejudice and demanding equality as they continued down the road to freedom."

Lee Ann's book, Pieces of Freedom: The Emancipation Sculptures of Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller, is now available through the University Press of Mississippi's website, as well as through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the independent book website. To learn more about Lee Ann, her research, and her book, you can also check out this Facebook page

Pieces of Freedom book cover