Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African-American Literature

Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African-American Literature

Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African-American Literature

Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African-American Literature

Synopsis

The essays in this collection introduce both newly recovered texts and new scholarly approaches, and together represent a powerful call to revise that we think we know about this rich vein in American letters.

Excerpt

Michael J. Drexler and Ed White

IN THE PAST TWO DECADES, A CANON OF BLACK WRITING HAS emerged to become codified in any number of American literature anthologies. This canon extends from a cluster of late eighteenthcentury writers—above all Olaudah Equiano and Phillis Wheatley— and culminates in the writings of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs. Between these poles one finds a fairly consistent constellation of secondary figures—David Walker, Henry Highland Garnet, Nat Turner, William Wells Brown, and Martin Delany—but attention seems focused on the two poles of origin and fulfillment, foundation and capstone. Meanwhile, in contrast to the steady persistence of this canon, the past decade has witnessed the continued valuable scholarship of reclamation evident in a number of important collections: Vincent Carretta’s Unchained Voices: An Anthology of Black Authors in the English-Speaking World of the Eighteenth Century (1996); Robert J. Cottrol’s From African to Yankee: Narratives of Slavery and Freedom in Antebellum New England (1998); Yuval Taylor’s two-volume anthology of slave narratives, I Was Born a Slave (1999); the Library of America’s new volume of Slave Narratives (ed. W. Andrews and H. L. Gates, 2000); Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature, 1790–1860 (ed. R. Newman, P. Rael, and P. Lapsansky, 2001); “Face Zion Forward”: First . . .

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