Talks + Lectures

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Lessons of the Hour: Frederick Douglass, Andrew Johnson, and the Work of Reconstruction

Fri, Apr 21, 2023 | 5:30–7:30 pm
Leslie Cheek Theater

Book signing 5:30–6 pm
Talk 6:30–7:30 pm

Join us as we proudly welcome author Dr. Robert Levine—prolific scholar of American literature—for a book signing and talk about the life of Frederick Douglass during the Reconstruction period. Levine will discuss Douglass’s fight for equal rights for African Americans, his contentious engagements with US president Andrew Johnson, and Douglass’s famous anti-lynching speech, "Lessons of the Hour."

Levine’s book The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson will be available for purchase in the VMFA Shop.

This special program is part of the Isaac Julien Speaker Series, which features distinguished speakers who will make connections to the exhibition Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass.

ROBERT S. LEVINE, PhD, is Distinguished University Professor of English at the University of Maryland, College Park. He has wide interests in 19th-century American literature and culture and a particular fascination with the life and work of Frederick Douglass. His recent books are The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson (W. W. Norton, 2021), Race, Transnationalism, and Nineteenth-Century American Literary Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2018), and The Lives of Frederick Douglass (Harvard University Press, 2016). His op-eds and essays have recently appeared in Time, The Washington Post, Literary Imagination, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Levine is the general editor of the world’s best-selling anthology of American literature, The Norton Anthology of American Literature. He has been awarded fellowships from the NEH and the Guggenheim Foundation. He lives in Ellicott City, Md. Learn more about the author at

$8 (VMFA members $5)

Livestream Option: Can’t make it in-person? Livestream the event from the comfort of home. Simply tune in here at the scheduled event time. Free; no registration required.

Daguerreotypes and James Presley Ball

Wed, Apr 26, 2023 | 11am–noon
Meet at Visitor Services

Join Dr. Sarah Kennel, VMFA's Aaron Siskind Curator of Photography and Director of the Raysor Center, for an overview of daguerreotype practices and the career of James Presley Ball as they relate to the film installation Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass.

Free; no tickets or registration required.


Artist Talks

We have over 25 videos of artists discussing their work in their own words and explore works in the VMFA permanent collection.