The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

Synopsis

In this comprehensive volume of the collected writings of James Monroe Whitfield (1822-71), Robert S. Levine and Ivy G. Wilson restore this African American poet, abolitionist, and intellectual to his rightful place in the arts and politics of the nineteenth-century United States.
Whitfield's works, including poems from his celebrated America and Other Poems (1853), were printed in influential journals and newspapers, such as Frederick Douglass's The North Star. A champion of the black emigration movement during the 1850s, Whitfield was embraced by African Americans as a black nationalist bard when he moved from his longtime home in Buffalo, New York, to California in the early 1860s. However, by the beginning of the twentieth century, his reputation had faded.
For this volume, Levine and Wilson gathered and annotated all of Whitfield's extant writings, both poetry and prose, and many pieces are reprinted here for the first time since their original publication. In their thorough introduction, the editors situate Whitfield in relation to key debates on black nationalism in African American culture, underscoring the importance of poetry and periodical culture to black writing during the period.

Excerpt

In his own time, James Monroe Whitfield (1822–71) was a celebrated African American poet and leader. He was the friend of Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany, and his poetry, appeared in a number of abolitionist and African American journals. In 1853, he published his first and only volume of poetry America and Other Poems, which secured his reputation among African American and abolitionist constituencies. He was profiled as a major African American poet in Delany’s The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (1852), William C. Nell’s The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution (1855), and William Wells Brown’s The Black Man: His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (1863). Shortly after the publication of America, Whitfield, who regularly participated in African American conventions and meetings, emerged as a champion of the black emigration movement. His pro-emigration letters appeared in African American newspapers and were republished in pamphlet form in Arguments, Pro and Con, on the Call for a National Emigration Convention (1854). When he moved from his longtime home in Buffalo, New York, to California in late 1861 or early 1862, he was embraced by African Americans there as a black nationalist bard. He became the grand master of the Prince Hall Masons of California and was viewed by most African Americans in the Northwest as the great African American poet. Among Whitfield’s important writings of the 1860s was a commemorative poem on Lincoln and his accomplishments, which he read before thousands at a public occasion in San Francisco. An anonymous couplet published in the 1867 black . . .

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