NASSR Statement in Support of Anti-Racism Initiatives

5 June 2020


On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed in broad daylight by members of the Minneapolis Police Department. The North American Society for the Study of Romanticism deplores this and other incidents of anti-black violence that have occurred in the United States and in Canada during the last several weeks and for centuries. That these crimes took place during a global pandemic that has disproportionally affected people of colour, including those working on the front lines of medical relief and scientific research, exacerbates our collective indignation and despair.     


The Romantic period witnessed democratic revolutions and anti-colonial movements around the world and the rise of the abolition movement. Romantic literature has helped define activism and peaceful protest. But it is imperative that we acknowledge that the Romantic period was also a time of widespread slavery, imperialist expansion, and colonialist settlement, when biological concepts of racial difference and privilege were developed and entrenched, and when racism was commensurate with social attitudes and cultural practises. We also understand that Romantic literature has been used to propagate and even celebrate the colonialist, racist, and white-supremacist ideologies that underlie the racialized violence we are witnessing today. 


As scholars and teachers, we need to make the triumphs and injustices of Romanticism relevant to ongoing efforts to end racism, to enhance fairness, inclusivity, and equality, and to alleviate suffering and oppression in the present and for generations to come. We cherish the work that our colleagues are doing and have done to provide necessary historical perspective on racial injustice in their scholarship, in their classes, and in their daily lives. NASSR resolves to be guided by their example in the organization of our conferences and meetings, and in our publications and communications. We as a community support all efforts—in our work with each other, our students, and the public—to help create a world that is more equitable, peaceable, and just.