The following people read this book in its entirety in manuscript form and offered invaluable criticism: William Andrews, David Barrow, David Bradley, Louis J. Budd, Emily Budick, Evan Carton, Sherwood Cummings, Vic Doyno, Ralph Ellison, Victor Fischer, Milton Fisher, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Susan Harris, Elaine Hedges, T. Walter Herbert, Hal Holbrook, Karla F. C. Holloway, William Howarth, Justin Kaplan, Paul Lauter, James A. Miller, Toni Morrison, Carla Peterson, Arnold Rampersad, Lillian Robinson, Jeffrey Rubin-Dorsky, David E. E. Sloane, David L. Smith, Bill Stott, Eric Sundquist, and Richard Yarborough.
Milton Fisher, my father, believed in this project all along. His advice, support, and excitement from the beginning helped nurture it to fruition.
David Bradley started all the trouble when he gave a talk on Huckleberry Finn at the Mark Twain Memorial in Hartford in 1985 titled "The First 'Nigger' Novel". His provocative questions and important insights have shaped this book from start to finish.
Carla Peterson, Jeffrey Rubin-Dorsky, Richard Yarborough, and Lillian Robinson each played a key role in helping me structure this project in its earliest stages. Their patience and generosity reached levels worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records. Toni Morrison, whose work has helped spark much of my thinking on these issues, provided crucial encouragement during this early period, as well. Arnold Rampersad strongly supported my preliminary forays into this material, helped give me the confidence to push ahead, and continued to offer sage advice as the book neared completion.
I am enormously grateful to Ralph Ellison for having agreed so graciously to an extended interview; his ideas inform virtually every aspect of this project, and his enthusiasm for the manuscript meant the world to me.
Skip Gates's generous encouragement and support of my work has always been and continues to be very important to me; his groundbreaking work in African-American literature and theory has been central to the development of my argument in this book.