The Hart Sisters: Early African Caribbean Writers, Evangelicals, and Radicals

The Hart Sisters: Early African Caribbean Writers, Evangelicals, and Radicals

The Hart Sisters: Early African Caribbean Writers, Evangelicals, and Radicals

The Hart Sisters: Early African Caribbean Writers, Evangelicals, and Radicals

Synopsis

"The Hart Sisters will be of great importance for social and cultural historians, literary and cultural critics working in Afro-Caribbean, African-American, and Afro-British studies, as well as those scholars working across national and disciplinary boundaries to construct the interwoven narratives of the African diaspora, antislavery movements, and the history of colonialism."-Cora Kaplan, author of Sea Changes: Culture and FeminismDaughter of a black slaveholder father, Anne Hart Gilbert and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites were among the first educators of slaves and free African Caribbeans in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Antigua. These members of the "free colored" community who married white men and played an active role as educators, antislavery activists, and Methodist evangelicals were also among the first African Caribbean female writers. This exceptional volume offers for the first time a collection of their writings.Because the records of the Hart sisters are rare and original testimony from black women of the time, they will be of great interest to the modern scholar. Autobiographical and biographical narrative, along with antislavery tracts, hymns, devotional poetry, and religious documents vividly reveal the lives of these courageous women. Their writings illuminate the complex of racial, spiritual, and class- and gender-based divisions, as well as attitudes, of Anglophone Caribbean society. Moira Ferguson's introduction situates the Hart sisters in historical context and explains how their writings helped establish a specific black Antiguan cultural identity.Moira Ferguson is a professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of Subject to Others: British Women Writers and Colonial Slavery and East Caribbean: Gender and Colonial Relations from Mary Wollstonecraft to Jamaica Kincaid.

Excerpt

Sisters born a year apart to a black slaveholder father, Anne Hart Gilbert (1773-1833) and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites (1772-1833) were the first educators of slaves and free blacks in Antigua and among the first African Caribbean female writers. Elizabeth Hart, moreover, was one of the first women in the Caribbean to agitate and write against slavery. Related to distinguished Methodist families, they were prominent members of the religious and cultural intelligentsia in Antigua during the late slave period there, when the institution was under attack and the character of society was changing. Between them the sisters tackled a wide range of genres, from biography and religious history to poetry and letters. Several texts doubled as political manifestos and antislavery polemics. Anne Hart Gilbert wrote a short solicited history of Antiguan Methodism and a biography of her husband, John Gilbert, and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites wrote a similarly solicited history, poems, hymns, letters, and an antislavery letter-tract.

In her detailed study of late eighteenth-century slave society in the British Leeward Islands, where Antigua held an important historical and political position, Elsa Goveia defines slave society as "the whole community based on slavery, including masters and, freedmen as well as slaves."

For the most part whites viewed the free colored, as the population of African Caribbean former slaves was known, as too insignificant numerically to make trouble; or perhaps whites downplayed their concern, since race and shade of complexion were decisive fac-

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