No More, America: Film Screening

Date: 

Thu - Sun, Oct 19 to Dec 31, 4:00pm - 5:00pm

Location: 

Level 5, Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St

On Wednesday, July 21, 1773, two graduating seniors at Harvard, Theodore Parsons and Eliphalet Pearson, were summoned before a public audience to debate whether slavery was compatible with “natural law.” No More, America (2017; 14 min.), a film by Peter Galison, reimagines this original debate to include the powerful voice of Phillis Wheatley, an acclaimed poet, then-enslaved, who lived just across the Charles River from the two Harvard students. Her presence serves as an intervention, rejecting the racist rhetoric employed by both sides through excerpts from her published works.

Presented by: Harvard Art MuseumsOn view in the Lightbox Gallery through Dec. 31
Admission: See website for admission information 
Museum Hours: Open daily 10am–5pm 
Oct. 19: Post-screening discussion and Q&A with co-directors Peter Galison and Henry Louis Gates.
Read Depths of slavery, heard, seen, and felt in the Harvard Gazette

On Wednesday, July 21, 1773, two graduating Harvard seniors, Theodore Parsons and Eliphalet Pearson, were summoned before a public audience to debate whether slavery was compatible with “natural law.” Such public disputations had been a fundamental part of acquiring and demonstrating knowledge for centuries, but this novel form—the forensic dispute—was new in the mid-18th century. This exchange is the only example for which a full verbatim record survives.

No More, America (2017; 14 min.), a film by Peter Galison, reimagines this original debate to include the powerful voice of Phillis Wheatley, an acclaimed poet, then-enslaved, who lived just across the Charles River from the two Harvard students. All three were 21 years old at the time of the disputation. The words are theirs, freely edited and arranged. Though her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral appeared in London in 1773, Wheatley’s voice, contemporaneous with the disputation, would never have originally appeared alongside the debate. In this film, Wheatley’s presence serves as an intervention, rejecting the racist rhetoric employed by both sides through excerpts from her published works.

No More, America was created for the Lightbox Gallery, an experimental space for the research and development of digital projects for the Harvard Art Museums, and is on view on Level 5 through December 31, 2017.

This program is offered in conjunction with the special exhibition The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 (May 19–December 31, 2017), organized by the Harvard Art Museums and curated by Ethan W. Lasser, the Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Curator of American Art and head of the Division of European and American Art at the Harvard Art Museums.