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The Trickster Comes West

The Trickster Comes West: Pan-African Influence in Early Black Diasporan Narratives

Babacar M’Baye
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Trickster Comes West
    Book Description:

    In the past, scholars have looked at narratives of the African diaspora only to discover how these memoirs, poems, and fictions related to the West.The Trickster Comes West: Pan-African Influence in Early Black Diasporan Narrativesexplores relationships among African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-British narratives of slavery and of New World and British oppression and what African influences brought to these diasporic expressions.

    Using an interdisciplinary method that combines history, literary theory, cultural studies, anthropology, folklore, and philosophy, the book examines the work of Pan-African trickster icons, such asLeuk(Rabbit),Golo(Monkey),Bouki(Hyena),Mbe(Tortoise), andAnancy(Spider), on the resistance strategies of early black writers who were exposing the evils of slavery, racism, sexism, economic exploitation, and other forms of oppression.

    Works discussed in this book include Phillis Wheatley'sPoems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral(1773), Quobna Ottobah Cugoano'sThoughts and Sentiments on the Evil of Slavery(1787), Olaudah Equiano'sThe Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano(1795), Elizabeth Hart Thwaites's "History of Methodism" (1804), Anne Hart Gilbert's "History of Methodism" (1804), and Mary Prince'sThe History of Mary Prince: A West Indian Slave, Related By Herself(1831). Analyzing these writings in the context of the black Atlantic struggle for freedom,The Trickster Comes Westrelocates the beginnings of Pan-Africanism and suggests the strong influence of its theories of communal resistance, racial solidarity, and economic development on pioneering black narratives.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-352-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    Phillis Wheatley, Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, Elizabeth Hart Thwaites, Anne Hart Gilbert, and Mary Prince were pioneer writers of the black diaspora who identified with Africa and developed sustained criticisms against slavery, racism, and other oppression against blacks in the New World and Africa. In their works, they made strong Pan-Africanist and other nationalist references that allowed them to offset the occasional ambivalence that they expressed toward Africa. The black diasporan writers were part of a small elite group of Western-educated black intellectuals whose views on Africa did not represent those of all other black populations in the West....

  5. CHAPTER ONE African and Puritan Dimensions of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems and Letters
    (pp. 21-68)

    Through her poems and letters, Wheatley identifies with Africa in complex and ambivalent terms that reflect her doubts and uncertainties about the continent. Yet her flawed, uncertain, and ambiguous relationship with Africa does not prevent her from using subtle Pan-African folklore and ideas as means of denouncing the oppressions Europeans perpetrated against Africans during the Atlantic slave trade. In her criticism of slavery, Wheatley uses verbal and ideological tactics that evolved from the resistance strategies that trickster figures from both African and African American folktales employ in order to liberate themselves from domination and achieve equality. By comparing Senegambian Wolof...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Pan-Africanism in Quobna Ottobah Cugoano’s Liberation Discourse
    (pp. 69-104)

    Quobna Ottobah Cugoano was a leading Pan-Africanist among the first writers of the black diaspora. He played a major role in the Pan-Africanist intellectual tradition of resistance through his sustained condemnation of the impact of the transatlantic slave trade on blacks of Africa, England, and the Caribbean during the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Anticipating the strong impact of racism and unequal distribution of resources on blacks of Africa and of the diaspora, he vehemently denounced these forms of oppression and urged the Western world to participate in the rehabilitation of the human rights of blacks and the improvement...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Pan-Africanism in Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative
    (pp. 105-143)

    The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Written by Himself(1795) is the most celebrated autobiography of a black writer from the West. InThe Classic Slave Narratives(1987), Henry Louis Gates Jr. canonizes it as “the prototype of the nineteenth-century slave narrative” (xiv). A decade later, Caryl Phillips describes it inExtravagant Strangers: A Literature of Belonging(1997) as “the first authentic account in English of the life of an African slave” (9). Adebayo William’s “Of Human Bondage and Literary Triumph: Hannah Crafts and the Morphology of the Slave Narrative” (2003) reestablishes the pivotal place of Equiano...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Africanism and Methodism in the Works of Elizabeth Hart Thwaites and Anne Hart Gilbert
    (pp. 144-177)

    Elizabeth Hart Thwaites (1771–1833) and Anne Hart Gilbert (1768–1834) were black Antiguan women and Methodist authors of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries whose writings remained unknown until Moira Ferguson made them available inThe Hart Sisters: Early African Caribbean Writers, Evangelicals, and Radicals(1993). This book contains two memoirs entitled “The History of Methodism” that the sisters wrote in 1804. Reading these memoirs carefully, one finds the sisters’ opinions about the conditions of slaves in Antigua in the 1830s, their attitudes about Africa, the importance of African traditions in Antiguan slave culture, and the authors’ resistance...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE African and Caribbean Patterns in Mary Prince’s Resistance
    (pp. 178-206)

    The studies about Mary Prince tend to disassociate early black diasporan literature from Africa. While some critics have interpreted Prince’s work and life merely as individual struggles against slavery and sexism, others have overlooked the African cultural survivals and Pan-Africanist sensibilities in them. InNine Black Women: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Writers from the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and the Caribbean(1998), Moira Ferguson describes Prince as “the first black British woman to ‘walk away’ from slavery and claim her freedom” and hails her narrative as “the first known recorded autobiography by a freed West Indian slave” (48).

    The fact...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 207-210)

    In an attempt to trace the history of Pan-African resistance in early black diasporan literature to Africa, this book has explored specific traditional African oral narratives and cultures in which the spirit of individual and collective resistance against tyrannical authority are pervasive. The cultures of the Wolof of Senegambia, the Fanti of Ghana, the Igbo of Nigeria, and those of the Africans in the Caribbean, the United States, and England, had complex traditions and ideas about god, spirituality, family, ancestors, lineage, kinship, life, and death that gave enslaved blacks the ideological and emotional tools to overcome slavery and rebuild their...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-218)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-240)
  13. Index
    (pp. 241-247)