Despite important recovery and authentication efforts during the last twenty-five years, the vast majority of nineteenth-century African American writers and their work remain unknown to today’s readers. Moreover, the most widely used anthologies of black writing have established a canon based largely on current interests and priorities. Seeking to establish a broader perspective, this collection brings together a wealth of autobiographical writings, fiction, poetry, speeches, sermons, essays, and journalism that better portrays the intellectual and cultural debates, social and political struggles, and community publications and institutions that nurtured black writers from the early 1800s to the eve of the Harlem Renaissance.
As editor Ajuan Mance notes, previous collections have focused mainly on writing that found a significant audience among white readers. Consequently, authors whose work appeared in African American-owned publications for a primarily black audiencesuch as Solomon G. Brown, Henrietta Cordelia Ray, and T. Thomas Fortunehave faded from memory. Even figures as celebrated as Frederick Douglass and Paul Laurence Dunbar are today much better known for their “cross-racial” writings than for the larger bodies of work they produced for a mostly African American readership. There has also been a tendency in modern canon making, especially in the genre of autobiography, to stress antebellum writing rather than writings produced after the Civil War and Reconstruction. Similarly, religious writingsdespite the centrality of the church in the everyday lives of black readers and the interconnectedness of black spiritual and intellectual lifehave not received the emphasis they deserve.
Filling those critical gaps with a selection of 143 works by 65 writers, Before Harlem presents as never before an in-depth picture of the literary, aesthetic, and intellectual landscape of nineteenth-century African America and will be a valuable resource for a new generation of readers.
|Publisher:||University of Tennessee Press|
|Edition description:||1st Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.60(d)|
About the Author
Ajuan Maria Mance is a professor of English at Mills College in Oakland, California. She is the author of Inventing Black Women: African American Poets and Self-Representation, which was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of African American Studies, Callaloo, and several edited collections.