Cannibals, Gorillas, and Racist Travel Literature with Daniel Kilbride

Professor Daniel Kildride discusses his article, “Cannibals, Gorillas, and the Struggle over Radical Reconstruction.” By examining best selling travel books of explorers and missionaries in Africa the current events of the 1850-1870s take on a new racist tone. How sensational tales of cannibalism and brutality sold books and tickets on the lecture circuit to how Darwin’s Origin of the Species helped spur a national “gorilla fever,” Prof. Kilbride illustrates how these pop culture moments defined the contours of racist points against Radial Reconstruction and established talking points to this day.

Daniel Kilbride is professor of history and director of the Honors Program at John Carroll University, where he has worked since 1997. He specializes in the cultural history of the nineteenth-century United States. He is the author of An American Aristocracy: Southern Planters in Antebellum Philadelphia, Being American in Europe, 1750-1860, and the co-editor of Southern Character: Essays in Honor of Bertram Wyatt-Brown, in addition to many articles.