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Unexpected Places

Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literature

Eric Gardner
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    Unexpected Places
    Book Description:

    Winner 2010 Outstanding Academic Title ChoiceWinner 2010 EBSCOhost / Research Society for American Periodicals Book PrizeHonorable Mention 2010 Thomas J. Lyon Book Award, Western Literature Association

    In January of 1861, on the eve of both the Civil War and the rebirth of the African Methodist Episcopal Church'sChristian Recorder, John Mifflin Brown wrote to the paper praising its editor Elisha Weaver: "It takes our Western boys to lead off. I amproud of your paper."

    Weaver's story, though, like many of the contributions of early black literature outside of the urban Northeast, has almost vanished.Unexpected Places: Relocating Nineteenth-Century African American Literaturerecovers the work of early African American authors and editors such as Weaver who have been left off maps drawn by historians and literary critics. Individual chapters restore to consideration black literary locations in antebellum St. Louis, antebellum Indiana, Reconstruction-era San Francisco, and several sites tied to the Philadelphia-based Recorder during and after the Civil War.

    In conversation with both archival sources and contemporary scholarship,Unexpected Placescalls for a large-scale rethinking of the nineteenth-century African American literary landscape. In addition to revisiting such better-known writers as William Wells Brown, Maria Stewart, and Hannah Crafts,Unexpected Placesoffers the first critical considerations of important figures including William Jay Greenly, Jennie Carter, Polly Wash, and Lizzie Hart. The book's discussion of physical locations leads naturally to careful study of how region is tied to genre, authorship, publication circumstances, the black press, domestic and nascent black nationalist ideologies, and black mobility in the nineteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-284-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

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: Duty and Daily Bread
    (pp. 3-21)

    On 11 December 1856, David Lewis rose to address sixty fellow African Americans: “I am a friend to this [news]paper, and go for supporting it; the changes we are seeking . . . for the sake of the common security of life and property must be effected through it, and as a result of an altered public sentiment; to produce this latter, we greatly need a paper; it seems, then, my duty to support the paper, as to labor for my daily bread” (Foner 155).

    Lewis’s sense that a textual outlet like a newspaper might be as important to some...

  5. Chapter 1 Gateways and Borders: Black St. Louis in the 1840s and 1850s
    (pp. 22-55)

    There was no shortage of discussion of St. Louis vis-à-vis slavery, race, and American values in the decades before the Civil War. In many ways, it was an “expected place” for a very specific kind of black story: “Though slavery is thought, by some, to be mild in Missouri when compared with the cotton, sugar and rice growing States,” William Wells Brown wrote in his 1847Narrative, “no part of our slave-holding country, is more noted for the barbarity of its inhabitants, than St. Louis. It was here that Col. Harney, a United States officer, whipped a slave woman to...

  6. Chapter 2 Frontiers and Domestic Centers: Black Indiana, 1857–1862
    (pp. 56-91)

    In a letter published in theChristian Recorderon 19 January 1861—as the United States moved closer and closer to civil war—the Reverend John Mifflin Brown celebrated theRecorder’s return after a hiatus of several years. Brown especially praised the recently appointed A.M.E. book steward andRecordereditor, Elisha Weaver: “I thank you for proving that we can do something,” Brown wrote. “It takes our Western boys to lead off. I am proud of your paper. I wish most heartily for your success.”

    In many ways, Brown’s wish would be fulfilled by the end of the Civil War....

  7. Chapter 3 The Black West: Northern California and Beyond, 1865–1877
    (pp. 92-132)

    “I wish that you could . . . cause your valuable journal to make its permanent residence at theWhite House,” wrote “P. K. C.” to Philip Bell in a letter published in the San FranciscoElevatoron the first day of 1869, “so that the correspondence from Japan found in its columns . . . may have effect. . . . What a pity that Reporters and everything connected with the relationship of this country to the United States should be so amiss,without eyes.” “P. K. C.,” who was identified elsewhere in theElevatoras black expatriate Peter...

  8. Chapter 4 Beyond Philadelphia: The Reach of the Recorder, 1865–1880
    (pp. 133-172)

    As theElevatorwas rising in the West, the Philadelphia-based newspaper that Elisha Weaver had resuscitated was arguably becoming the most important black periodical in the nation. With the active support of an ever-growing church (including a cadre of ministers who recognized the textual as a key vehicle for African Americans), Weaver could report, in the 30 December 1865Christian Recorder, that the A.M.E. Church’s flagship paper had not missed a single issue in his years at its helm. Weaver argued that part of the reason for this success was that he had made theRecorder“a paper adapted to...

  9. Epilogue: (Re)Locating “Hannah Crafts”
    (pp. 173-183)

    I initially conceived of this study’s conclusion as a series of short and provocative close and contextualized readings of texts not considered in the previous chapters—both samples of other “unexpected places” and reconsiderations of better-known texts’ relationships to the frameworks offered here. Among those better-known texts, I’ve been most fascinated withThe Bondwoman’s Narrative, a manuscript novel published for the first time in 2002 that may (or may not) be semiautobiographical. Signed with what most critics assume to be a pseudonym, “Hannah Crafts,”The Bondwoman’s Narrativetells a rich first-person story of a young woman’s experiences in slavery and...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 184-225)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 226-246)
  12. Index
    (pp. 247-258)