This essay excavates a genealogy of speculative engagements with natural science among African American writers and intellectuals during the antebellum period. Focusing on Frederick Douglass’s 1854 speech on ethnology and Martin Delany’s 1859–62 serial novel Blake; or, the Huts of America, it chronicles how black cultural actors turned to the many fields of natural science not only to critique racist science but also to produce a rich speculative imagination of and for emancipation. More broadly, the essay maps the contours of what I term fugitive science, a furtive, subterranean history of experiments and practices that linked racial science to abolitionism across the Atlantic and mobilized natural science for more fleeting, but no less important, acts of black resistance and world making.


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pp. 799-829
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