Winch, Julie 1953-
WINCH, Julie 1953-
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of History, University of Massachusetts—Boston, 100 Morrissey Blvd., Boston, MA 02125. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Rhode Island College, Providence, RI, assistant professor of history, 1983-85; University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA, assistant professor of history and black studies, 1985-92, associate professor, 1992-98, professor of history, 1998—. Panelist, guest lecturer, and author. Served as interviewee and production team member for Africans in America, a Public Broadcasting System television series; consultant to WHYY-TV, Philadelphia, PA, program Black Philadelphia Memories; has also served as a consultant to the New England Foundation for the Humanities, the Black Abolitionist Archives at the University of Detroit—Mercy, and for the Fort Mifflin, Philadelphia, K-12 curriculum development program.
AWARDS, HONORS: Peterson Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society, 1987; Albert J. Beveridge Research Grant, American Historical Association, 1988; W. E. B. DuBois Institute for Afro-American Research fellowship, Harvard University, 1989-90; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, 1989-90, 1992-93; Cuffe Fellowship, Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies, 1990; Archibald Hanna, Jr. Fellowship, Beinecke Library, Yale University, 1993; University of Massachusetts—Boston faculty research grants, 1993, 1996; Chancellor's Distinguished Scholarship Award, University of Massachusetts, Boston, 2000.
Philadelphia's Black Elite: Activism, Accommodation, and the Struggle for Autonomy, 1787-1848, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1988.
(Editor and author of introduction) Cyprian Clamorgan, The Colored Aristocracy of St. Louis, University of Missouri Press(Columbia, MO), 1999.
(Editor and author of introduction) The Elite of OurPeople: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia, Pennsylvania State University Press (University Park, PA), 2000.
Contributor to books, including The Abolitionist Sisterhood: Women's Political Culture in Antebellum America, Cornell University, 1994. Contributor of book reviews to periodicals and journals, including Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, and Trotter Institute Review.
SIDELIGHTS: Julie Winch, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, is a respected scholar of African-American society, politics, and cultural development in the pre-Civil War North, particularly the city of Philadelphia. Along with writing or editing several books and numerous journal articles, she frequently lectures on African-American history and has been tapped as an "expert" for such projects as the PBS series Africans in America.
Winch drew upon research she conducted for her doctoral dissertation at Bryn Mawr to produce the 1988 work Philadelphia's Black Elite: Activism, Accommodation, and the Struggle for Autonomy, 1787-1848. The book examines the lives and accomplishments of privileged black citizens in Philadelphia in the decades preceding the U.S. Civil War. Throughout those years, Philadelphia had one of the largest concentrations of free blacks in the United States. "Throughout the antebellum era," Winch observes in Philadelphia's Black Elite, "leadership was rooted in a complex network of autonomous Black organizations, which offered able and articulate men and women within the community a basis for asserting their authority and developing the skills they would require to oversee citywide and, in some cases, national organizations." One such organization was the American Moral Reform Society. Another influential force in Philadelphia's black community was the new African Methodist Episcopal church.
According to Sheldon Harris in an American Historical Review assessment, "Winch, in her perceptive study, offers the thesis that the leaders produced by Philadelphia's black community belonged to a higher socioeconomic class than ordinary blacks and were among the leadership element for all free blacks in the antebellum era. Leadership, she contends, emerged from the business class and from the clergy." Winch mentions various leaders and the role they played, especially in the difficult times after 1838 when the state legislature, with the approval of white voters, disfranchised the black population. Larry A. Greene, in a review of the study for the Journal of American History, declared that Philadelphia's Black Elite provides valuable insight as it "determines the basis of [the black elite's] influence, explores the course they steered between the sometimes conflicting demands of white and black communities, and analyzes the strategies they developed for the racial betterment of slaves and free blacks." Greene maintained that the volume goes beyond just examining issues in Philadelphia to present "a thorough, national analysis of black leadership."
Winch used the writings of Joseph Willson, a black man who lived in Philadelphia in the early part of the nineteenth century, to depict upper-class black society in The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia; for this edition, she edited his original writings and added her own historical exposition. Willson wrote a commentary on Philadelphia's black high society that he published anonymously in 1841. The son of a free black woman and a white Georgia banker, Willson was enough of an outsider that he could observe Philadelphia's society objectively, and he wrote his commentary in the "society of manners" style made popular by writers such as Frances Trollope and Charles Dickens. He hoped to encourage blacks to improve themselves and to remove the unfounded prejudices of white people; he attacked white vigilantes, job barriers, and the disenfranchisement of blacks in Pennsylvania in 1938. Part of his intent was to convince white readers that the black community did indeed have a class structure. His commentaries provide a sophisticated analysis of issues of class and race in the city. Willson's hectoring of his black readers toward self-improvement is reminiscent of Benjamin Franklin's writing.
Winch places Willson's writing in historical context, adding a seventy-three-page introduction and over fifty pages of notes to the original text. Lawrence B. Goodheart, writing in History: Review of New Books, called this the "definitive volume" of Willson's commentary, and approved its addition to the expanding literature on the free black community in the pre-Civil War North.
In 2002 Winch published A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten, a biography of black abolitionist James Forton, who lived from 1766 to 1842. He was the son of free black parents in Philadelphia, and he grew up influenced by the ideas of Thomas Paine and other colonial writers. He went to sea as a young man, was captured by the British, lived in London for a while, and then returned home to become a successful sail-maker. Eventually he amassed a small fortune and branched out into real estate and money-lending. He became active in civic, religious, and educational matters. He was also a noted abolitionist, associating with William Lloyd Garrison and publishing his own book, Letters from a Man of Color, in 1813.
Winch researched A Gentleman of Color with great care; when she lacked evidence about her subject's life, she researched his world to create a detailed picture of what he might have been doing. A reviewer for Kirkus Reviews was particularly impressed by the depth of her research into eighteenth-century sail-making, calling the book a "rigorously researched and creatively imagined biography." Forten's life has been neglected for the past century, but critics agreed that Winch has brought him back into view. The reviewer for Publishers Weekly declared that Winch "restores [Forten] to his rightful place in American history, but also presents readers with an invigorating and challenging new portrait of pre- and post-Revolutionary race relations and identities."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1990, p. 259; April, 1994, pp. 658-659; June, 1996, pp. 910-911.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 2000, Lawrence B. Goodheart, review of The Elite of Our People: Joseph Willson's Sketches of Black Upper-Class Life in Antebellum Philadelphia, p. 13.
Journal of American History, March, 1989, p. 1311; September, 1994, pp. 691-692.
Journal of American Studies, December, 1990, p. 449.
Journal of Southern History, November, 1989, p. 704.
Journal of Urban History, May, 1990, p. 319.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2001, review of A Gentleman of Color: The Life of James Forten, p. 1412.
Library Journal, May 1, 1988, p. 79.
Publishers Weekly, October 8, 2001, review of AGentleman of Color, p. 51.