Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture

Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture

Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture

Black Print Unbound: The Christian Recorder, African American Literature, and Periodical Culture

Synopsis

Black Print Unbound explores the development of the Christian Recorder during and just after the American Civil War. As a study of the official African Methodist Episcopal Church newspaper (a periodical of national reach and scope among free African Americans), Black Print Unbound is thus at once a massive recovery effort of a publication by African Americans for African Americans, a consideration of the nexus of African Americanist inquiry and print culture studies, and an intervention in the study of literatures of the Civil War, faith communities, and periodicals. The book pairs a longitudinal sense of the Recorder's ideological, political, and aesthetic development with the fullest account available of how the physical paper moved from composition to real, traceable subscribers. It builds from this cultural and material history to recover and analyze diverse and often unknown texts published in the Recorder including letters, poems, and a serialized novel-texts that were crucial to the development of African American literature and culture and that challenge our senses of genre, authorship, and community. In this, Black Print Unbound offers a case study for understanding how African Americans inserted themselves in an often-hostile American print culture in the midst of the most complex conflict the young nation had yet seen, and it thus calls for a significant rewriting of our senses of African American - and so American - literary history.

Excerpt

Bishop Daniel Payne rose from the armchair by the fireplace. Short and thin, he was often mistaken for frail during his long life. Historian Benjamin Quarles’s assessment is closer to the truth: Payne “looked as though he had been fasting in the wilderness, and he carried himself like a man sent from God” (104). Payne had likely spent much of the last hour praying, arguing, listening, teaching, and preaching. Years after this April 1862 meeting, this lion of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church wrote that he finally felt it was his “duty to withdraw” (Recollections 147). As Payne readied himself to go, he took a small magazine and a newspaper from his satchel, and he handed them to the tall, tired man he had come to see. Earnestly, Payne “told him that if he could find a leisure moment to look over” the magazine and the newspaper, “he would see what the Á. Ì. Å. Church was doing to improve the character and condition of our people in the republic” (147-148). Then Payne took his leave. One wonders if he glanced back over his shoulder, hoping to see Abraham Lincoln paging through the issues of the Repository of Religion and Literature and the Christian Recorder that the AME bishop had just gifted him.

Students of African American history know that the meeting between Lincoln and Payne is the kind of moment that most scholars have dismissed, ignored, or simply not known about—that at best it might be treated as a tiny thread in the massive tapestries surrounding Lincoln and the Civil War. Students of Black print culture know that Payne’s final gesture, his attempt to deploy African American texts that were not bound books, would, until very recently, not even have garnered much notice. the Lincoln White House was dealing with a war of a size, scope, and character never seen in North America—George B. McClellan’s doomed Peninsula Campaign was gearing up—and Lincoln himself, burdened by his office and the death of his eleven-year-old son Willie only two months before, was suffering deep personal pain, too. Add Lincoln’s famous willingness to meet with hundreds of petitioners . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.