Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia
The most complete and compelling collection of its kind
Unparalleled chronological and geographical scope of the political, intellectual, and cultural writings of people of African descent in the Americas, Africa, and Europe.
Krystal Appiah, Curator of African American History, Library Company of Philadelphia

Quick Facts

  • More than 550 works by authors of African or African-American descent
  • A fascinating look at the creative efforts of black authors over three centuries
  • Expertly compiled by the curators of the extraordinary Afro-Americana Imprints collection

Overview

Created from the renowned holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia, Black Authors, 1556-1922, is the most complete and compelling collection of its kind. It offers more than 550 fully catalogued and searchable works by black authors from the Americas, Europe and Africa, expertly compiled by the curators of Afro-Americana Imprints collection, the largest existing collection of its kind. Found within are wide-ranging genres, including personal narratives, autobiographies, histories, expedition reports, military reports, novels, essays, poems and musical compositions.

New research and teaching opportunities
Major subject areas addressed in Black Authors include Literature, Ethnic History, Colonialism, Gender Studies, Slavery, Diaspora Studies and related fields. As a whole, this collection reveals how the creative efforts of black authors evolved over three centuries. The earliest published works of authors of African descent are largely travel narratives and historical works treating the exploration of the African continent and the collision between European powers with the peoples of Africa.

This is followed by a proliferation of personal narratives, first in Europe and at then in America and the Caribbean, as well as by the beginning of anti-slavery letters, speeches and literary works. Following the American Civil War, black authors branched into almost all fields, resulting in a diverse collection containing works of history, science, philosophy, literature, music and drama.

Authors included are Leo Africanus, Ignatius Sancho, Benjamin Banneker, Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, David Ruggles, William Wells Brown, Solomon Northrup, Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs, Alexander Crummell, Martin Delany, Edward Wilmot Blyden, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Josiah Henson, Frederick Douglass, Bethany Veney, Paul Laurence Dunbar, W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles W. Chestnutt, Booker T. Washington, James Weldon Johnson and hundreds of others.

About the Library Company of Philadelphia
The Library Company of Philadelphia is an independent research library specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company is America's oldest cultural institution. The Library Company houses an extensive collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs and works of art, as well as the second largest holding of early American imprints.

An Archive of Americana Collection
Black Authors, 1556-1922, is fully integrated into America’s Historical Imprints for seamless searching with African History and Culture, 1540-1921; Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920; Early American Imprints, 1639-1819; and other related collections.

 

Accolades

“The Library Company of Philadelphia’s Afro-Americana collection has long been one of the essential archives for early African American studies.  From broadsides to sermons to pamphlets to narratives, it has been indispensable to every stage of my research.  Now its online iteration, Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, has become central to how I teach early African American literature and print culture.  The collection’s breadth (generic, linguistic, geographic) and depth has allowed me to introduce students (graduate and undergraduate) and colleagues to the archive of Afro-Americana in ways heretofore impossible.  What once took forays into multiple online sources, microfilm collections, personal archives, and anthologies can now be done through one online interface.  More, the organization by Genre, Subject, Author, History of Printing, Place of Publication, and Language provides multiple vectors for engaging the archive.  The History of Printing category has been especially helpful for giving a sense of just how vast early African American print production was, while the Genre breakdown provides both organization and points of departure for thinking about how we categorize and canonize texts in the field more broadly.  While online interfaces can never replace encounters with material objects, Afro-Americana Imprints and its independently available subset of Black Authors makes getting students excited about archival research much easier.  In that sense, it provides a fantastic gateway to black print culture.”
— Derrick R. Spires, Assistant Professor of English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"At last! Black Authors, 1556-1922, is a dream come true for the early African-Americanist. A tremendous boon!"
— Jeannine Marie DeLombard, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Black Authors, 1556-1922, provides unparalleled chronological and geographical scope of the political, intellectual, and cultural writings of people of African descent in the Americas, Africa, and Europe. The range of authors also reflects the diasporic origins of many writers, whose citizenship status was either undefined or spanned multiple nations and cultural groups. In addition to works by individual authors, this collection includes collective writings and petitions by conventions and committees. Featuring familiar names as well as non-canonical authors, this collection is a valuable resource for introductory surveys as well as in-depth studies of black literary production in a variety of fields, including African American and African Diasporic studies, print culture, and the Atlantic World.”
— Krystal Appiah, Curator of African American History, Library Company of Philadelphia

Notable Titles

1774 Newport A narrative of the most remarkable particulars in the life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw : an African prince Gronniosaw, James Albert Ukawsaw.
1783 London, England Letters of the late Ignatius Sancho, an African. : In two volumes. To which are prefixed, memoirs of his life. The first[-second] volume. Sancho, Ignatius, 1729-1780.
1789 London, England The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African. Equiano, Olaudah, b. 1745.
1814 Au Cap-Henry Royaume d'Hayti : Manifeste du roi. Henri Christophe, King of Haiti, 1767-1820.
1820 Hartford, (Connecticut) Mystery developed; or, Russell Colvin, (supposed to be murdered,) in full life : and Stephen and Jesse Boorn, (his convicted murderers,) rescued from ignominious death by wonderful discoveries. Containing, I. A narrative of the whole transaction Haynes, Lemuel, 1753-1833.
1825 London, England A narrative of some remarkable incidents, in the life of Solomon Bayley, : formerly a slave, in the state of Delaware, North America; Bayley, Solomon.
1834 Troy, N.Y. Address delivered before the African Female Benevolent Society of Troy, : on Wednesday, February 12, 1834. Wicks, Elizabeth.
1850 New York, N.Y. The late contemplated insurrection in Charleston, S.C. : with the execution of thirty-six of the patriots: the death of William Irving, the provoked husband: and Joe Devaul, for refusing to be the slave of Mr. Roach: with the capture of the American slaver trading between the seat of government and New Orleans: together with an account of the capture of the Spanish schooner Amistad.. Colored American.
1851 Buffalo, N.Y. Lectures on American slavery Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895.
1852 Boston, Mass. Services of colored Americans, in the wars of 1776 and 1812. Nell, William C. (William Cooper), 1816-1874.
1857 London, England Wonderful adventures of Mrs. Seacole in many lands. Seacole, Mary, 1805-1881.
1858 Boston, Mass. The escape; or, A leap for freedom : A drama, in five acts Brown, William Wells, 1814?-1884.
1859 London, England The gospel on the banks of the Niger. : journals and notices of the native missionaries accompanying the Niger Expedition of 1857-1859. Crowther, Samuel, 1806?-1891.
1861 New York, N.Y. A pilgrimage to my motherland : An account of a journey among the Egbas and Yorubas of Central Africa, in 1859-60 Campbell, Robert, of the Niger Valley Exploring Party
1862   The future of Africa: : being addresses, sermons, etc., etc., delivered in the republic of Liberia. Crummell, Alexander, 1819-1898.
1863 Savannah, Ga. The Black man : his antecedents, his genius, and his achievements Brown, William Wells, 1814?-1884.
1864 Cincinnati, Ohio The Black Brigade of Cincinnati : being a report of its labors and a muster-roll of its members : together with various orders, speeches, etc. relating to it Clark, Peter H.
1867 Toronto, Can., Naperville, Ill., Atlanta, Ga. The past, present, and future. : In prose and poetry. Clark, Benjamin Cutler, b. 1825?
1870 New York, N.Y. Narrative of a journey to Musardu : the capital of the western Mandingoes Anderson, Benjamin J. K., b. 1834.
1878 Boston, Mass. Music and some highly musical people : containing brief chapters on I. A description of music II. The music of nature III. A glance at the history of music IV. The power, beauty, and uses of music : following which are given sketches of the lives of remarkable musicians of the colored race Trotter, James M. (James Monroe), 1844-1912.
1878   The colored cadet at West Point. : Autobiography of Lieut. Henry Ossian Flipper, U.S.A., first graduate of color from the U.S. Military Academy.. Flipper, Henry Ossian, 1856-1940.
1882 Cincinnati, Ohio A collection of revival hymns and plantation melodies Taylor, Marshall W. (Marshall William), 1846-1887.
1887 London, England Christianity, Islam and the Negro race Blyden, Edward Wilmot, 1832-1912.
1891 Springfield, Mass. The Afro-American press and its editors Penn, I. Garland (Irvine Garland), 1867-1930.
1898 London, England Dream-lovers : an operatic romance Coleridge-Taylor, Samuel, and Paul Laurence Dunbar.
1898   The uncalled : a novel Dunbar, Paul Laurence, 1872-1906.
1898   Black-belt diamonds : gems from the speeches, addresses, and talks to students of Booker T. Washington Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915.
1901 Philadelphia, Pa Some simple songs : and a few more ambitious attempts McGirt, James E. (James Ephraim)
1901 Nashville, Tenn. Overshadowed : A novel Griggs, Sutton Elbert, 1872-
1902 New York, N.Y. The Black cat club : Negro humor & folk-lore Corrothers, James David, 1869-1917.
1904 New York, N.Y. Reminiscences of my life in camp : with the 33rd United States Colored Troops late 1st S.C. Volunteers Taylor, Susie King, b. 1848.
1904 New York, N.Y. Plantation echoes : a collection of original Negro dialect poems. Henderson, Elliott Blaine.
1904 New York, N.Y. The colored regulars in the United States army : with a sketch of the history of the colored American, and an account of his services in the wars of the country, from the period of the revolutionary war to 1899 : introductory letter from Lieutenant-General Nelson A. Miles Steward, T. G. (Theophilus Gould), 1843-1924.
1908 Springfield, Ohio Dis, dat an' tutter : poems Henderson, Elliott Blaine.
1919 Washington, D.C. Kelly Miller's history of the world war for human rights : an intensely human and brilliant account of the world war ... and a thrilling account of the important part taken by the Negro in the tragic defeat of Germany ... Including a wonderful array of striking pictures made from recent official photographs ... with remarkable pictures of the Negro in action in both army and navy Miller, Kelly, 1863-1939.
1920   Negro migration during the war Scott, Emmett J. (Emmett Jay), 1873-1957.
1921 Philadelphia, PA A tale of a walled town and other verses Rea, Clarence Alexander.
1922   Negro folk rhymes : wise and otherwise ; with a study Talley, Thomas Washington.

Reviews

Many resources are devoted to African American history and culture, but few offer the archival detail of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922….a multifaceted file for students and researchers of all types.

“…the new interface…is a significant improvement in terms of usability and function. Clearly labeled "browse by" options are in the middle of the page and include genre, subjects, author, history of printing, place of publication, and language. The purposely large boxes are easy to read, meaning patrons should be able to navigate them with ease.”
— Library Journal (June 1, 2015)

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