EFC Lecture: A Dark, Unruly Space — Patricia Foster

Oct 5, 2023

04:00 PM - 05:30 PM

Biology Building East, 101

210 Iowa Avenue, Iowa City, IA 52240

Save to My Events

Photo of Patricia Foster

What happens when a mother and daughter with different political concerns discuss issues of race in America?

In 2015 on a visit home to Alabama, Patricia Foster and her mother argue over the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. This encounter becomes the catalyst for Foster’s visit to Africatown in Plateau, Alabama (40 miles from her hometown), where the last American slave ship, the Clotilda, arrived in 1860 after the U.S. had abolished the international slave trade in 1808. 

What Foster discovers in Africatown disturbs and ignites her curiosity, leading her to two significant books—Dreams of Africa in Alabama, Sylviana A. Diouf (Oxford University Press) and Barracoon, Zora Neale Hurston (Amistad)—and to writing an essay “A Dark, Unruly Space” (Massachusetts Review, a Notable Essay in The Best American Essays) in which she explores the personal and historical aspects of this experience.

Patricia Foster, PhD, MFA, is Professor Emerita in the Department of English, Nonfiction Writing Program

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at