Black Writers of the Founding Era (LOA #366): A Library of America Anthology (Hardcover)
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A radical new vision of the nation's founding era and a major act of historical recovery
Featuring more than 120 writers, this groundbreaking anthology reveals the astonishing richness and diversity of Black experience in the turbulent decades of the American Revolution
Black Writers of the Founding Era is the most comprehensive anthology ever published of Black writing from the turbulent decades surrounding the birth of the United States. An unprecedented archive of historical sources––including more than 200 poems, letters, sermons, newspaper advertisements, slave narratives, testimonies of faith and religious conversion, criminal confessions, court transcripts, travel accounts, private journals, wills, petitions for freedom, even dreams, by over 100 authors––it is a collection that reveals the surprising richness and diversity of Black experience in the new nation.
Here are writers both enslaved and free, loyalist and patriot, female and male, northern and southern; soldiers, seamen, and veterans; painters, poets, accountants, orators, scientists, community organizers, preachers, restaurateurs and cooks, hairdressers, criminals, carpenters, and many more. Along with long-famous works like Phillis Wheatley’s poems and Benjamin Banneker’s astonishing mathematical and scientific puzzles are dozens of first-person narratives offering little-known Black perspectives on the events of the times, like the Boston Massacre and the death of George Washington.
From their bold and eloquent contributions to public debates about the meanings of the revolution and the values of the new nation–– writings that dramatize the many ways in which protest, activism, and community organizing have been integral to the Black American experience from the beginning––to their intimate thoughts preserved in private diaries and letters, some unseen to the present day, the words of the many writers gathered here will indelibly alter our understandings of American history.
A foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed and an introduction by James G. Basker, along with introductory headnotes and explanatory notes drawing on cutting edge scholarship, illuminate these writers’ works and to situate them in their historical contexts.
A 16-page color photo insert presents portraits of some of the writers included and images of the original manuscripts, broadside, and books in which their words have been preserved.
About the Author
James G. Basker, editor, is President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and Richard Gilder Professor of Literary History at Barnard College, Columbia University. He has written and edited many books including, for Library of America, American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation (2012).
Nicole Seary is Senior Editor at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
“Amplifies the voices of many men and women whose words and deeds shaped the America we know and cherish today. . . . Remarkable stories like these enrich and expand our understanding of our nation’s earliest days.” —Wall Street Journal
"Editors Basker and Seary have assembled a diverse trove of legal documents, poems, letters, pamphlets, sermons, memoirs, and plentiful other source documents to provide much more than a glimpse of the struggles, triumphs, and tragedies of a diverse cross-section of Black people living in late 18th- and early 19th-century United States. Here are the words of Black Revolutionary War veterans fighting for the independence of a new nation, or joining the British side in sometimes desperate bids for freedom from their enslavers. Black men and women assert and petition for their rights with inspiring courage and agency against staggering odds, enlisting allies and creating networks of mutual aid in secular and church settings that can be directly traced down to the civil rights movements of the past and present. VERDICT: Adding to Library of America's exemplary offerings, Slave Narratives (LOA 114), American Antislavery Writings (LOA 233), and Reconstruction (LOA 303), this extraordinary and unrivalled anthology of compelling primary sources (LOA 366) adds vital and necessary background for the lay reader, recovering an often overlooked early era of the long arc of Black United States history. An essential purchase." —Library Journal