Black Authors


Eight Digital Collections for Teaching and Studying Black History

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Celebrate centuries of Black History this February—and all year long—with these eight digital resources for African American studies. Contribute to your own institution’s Black History observances by providing or promoting access to these acclaimed collections of primary sources available from Readex.


African Americans and Reconstruction: Hope and Struggle, 1865-1883

Providing the raw material of African-American history across nearly 20 crucial years, this database brings together many of the most significant printed materials by and about African Americans. Among them are overlooked works of fiction and poetry.

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African Americans and Jim Crow: Repression and Protest, 1883-1992

This collection captures voices of, by and about African Americans during a pivotal period of segregation and disenfranchisement, enabling students and scholars to easily uncover patterns of thought and compare points of view.

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Eight Digital Collections for Teaching and Studying Black History

Cold Weather Conflict, Freethinkers & Faith, and Tactical Taxes: Readex Report (Oct. 2018)

In this issue: Soldiers at Chickamauga battle enemies and the elements; black thought leaders weigh outrage and religious conviction; and the political power of tariffs.


Antebellum America’s Galvanizing Issue: The Tariff

William Bolt, Associate Professor of History, Francis Marion University

Tariff Wars.jpgFor the past 50 years few Americans discussed tariffs. That has changed in the past two years. During his presidential campaign of 2016, Donald Trump hinted that he would impose tariffs in order to revitalize manufacturing in the United States. From the stump, Trump assailed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade agreements. While economists recoiled over these pronouncements because of the harm they might cause domestic markets, they forgot that trade restrictions serve a political purpose as well. > Full Story


Black Freethought from Slavery to Civil Rights: Atheism and Agnosticism in African American Cultural and Intellectual Life

Christopher Cameron, Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Cold Weather Conflict, Freethinkers & Faith, and Tactical Taxes: Readex Report (Oct. 2018)

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

This year’s Black History Month marks 200 years since the birth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century. While America’s Historical Newspapers includes The North Star, the forceful anti-slavery newspaper Douglass began publishing in Rochester, New York, in 1847, America’s Historical Imprints contains a wealth of primary source material recording, remembering, and celebrating his remarkable life and work.


 

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In his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, found in Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia, Frederick writes of his parents.

My mother was named Harriet Bailey. She was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, both colored, and quite dark. My mother was of a darker complexion than either my grandmother or grandfather.

My father was a white man. He was admitted to be such by all I ever heard speak of my parentage. The opinion was also whispered that my master was my father; but of the correctness of this opinion, I know nothing; the means to knowing was withheld from me. My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

He continues, describing his relationship with his mother:

Celebrating the Remarkable Life and Work of Frederick Douglass through America’s Historical Imprints

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Arch_Street_Ferry 2.jpgThe January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes:

♦ a description of the first major yellow fever epidemic in the United States

♦ a collection of verse by an African slave who became a leading American poet 

♦ and W.E.B. Du Bois' first scholarly book—a history of the slave trade based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation.


Jones Title Page.jpgA Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793 (1794)

By Absalom Jones and Richard Allen

Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831) were both born into slavery and through various transactions were subsequently separated from their families. They were also both clergymen; Jones, in 1804, became the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States, and Allen, in 1794, founded the first independent black denomination in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this jointly-written narrative they describe the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic and respond to criticisms of African Americans who assisted in caring for the sick.

They write:

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Top Ten: The Most Popular Readex Blog Posts Published in 2016

Here are the most-read posts published on the Readex Blog during 2016:

180px-Hubbardton-Battlefield-Monument sm.jpg1. “My knees then smote one against the other”: Highlights from Supplement to Early American Imprints, Shaw-Shoemaker

This month’s release of new material in the Early American Imprints Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society includes a biographical account of a young American rebel who was wounded... More

Elmira%20barrel sm c2.jpg2. Captured! Firsthand Accounts of Prisoners of War from The American Civil War Collection

Opinions on prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges have dominated recent news cycles. The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian... More

Top Ten: The Most Popular Readex Blog Posts Published in 2016

“Sweetly Thrilling Symphonies”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The April release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes two late 19th-century collections of biographical sketches, one of African American musicians and a second including a wide range of influential African Americans. Also found in the current release is a history of African American troops in the Civil War. 


Music and Some Highly Musical People (1878) 

By James Monroe Trotter 

In 1842, James Monroe Trotter was born into slavery in Mississippi. Freed by their owner, he and his two sisters and mother, Letitia, moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Trotter could grow up in freedom. Prior to the Civil War, Trotter taught in Ohio and met Virginia Isaacs, his future wife. During the war, he served, and was promoted quickly, in the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. After the war, he worked in the Post Office Department in Boston and as Recorder of Deeds in Washington, D.C. 

Trotter begins this volume by asking, what is music? And then offers this elegant answer:  

“Sweetly Thrilling Symphonies”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“We Are Recognized Citizens of This Nation”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The March release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes Nat Turner’s published confession, the first issue of David Ruggles’ Mirror of Liberty, and a petition to the U.S. Congress for suffrage rights by the National Convention of the Colored Men of America. 


The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831)

Introducing Nat Turner’s confession, Thomas R. Gray describes how he acquired it and provides evidence of its authenticity. Gray was given access to the imprisoned Turner, who had been captured by “Benjamin Phipps, armed with a shot gun well charged,” and 

…finding that he was willing to make a full and free confession of the origin, progress and consummation of the insurrectory movements of the slaves of which he was the contriver and head; I determined for the gratification of public curiosity to commit his statements to writing, and publish them, with little or no variation, from his own words. That this is a faithful record of his confessions, the annexed certificate of the County Court of Southampton, will attest. 

“We Are Recognized Citizens of This Nation”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“How to Solve the Race Problem” and other Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The February release of Black Authors, 1556-1922 includes a work on class and race in Philadelphia published during the Antebellum Period, an examination of the post-Reconstruction South by a Barbados-born lawyer, and an early 20th-century solution to the race problem “by eminent men of both races and in every walk of life.” Among the African American leaders who convened at the 1903 Washington Conference on the Race Problem in the United States were the 18 whose photographs appear below.


Sketches of the Higher Classes of Colored Society in Philadelphia (1841) 

By A Southerner  

Joseph Wilson, using the pseudonym A Southerner, wrote about his adopted city in hopes of proving to the white community that the African American community also contained an upper echelon and to offer advice to the privileged members of that class. Wilson’s work is particularly notable because it is a very early account of class and race in Philadelphia, predating W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Philadelphia Negro by half a century.  

“How to Solve the Race Problem” and other Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“This Great and Glorious Country”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

The January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a philosophical exploration of death and future life, a moving slave narrative, and the autobiography of the U.S. Army’s first African American nurse. 


Death, Hades, and the Resurrection (1883) 

By Theophilus Gould Steward 

Educator, clergyman, and Buffalo Soldier, Theophilus Gould Steward was born to free African Americans in New Jersey in 1843. This work was published when Steward was 40, eight years before he joined the 25th U.S. Colored Infantry and two years after he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity from Wilberforce University.    

Steward begins Death, Hades, and the Resurrection by asking questions pondered since time immemorial: 

What is it to die? Do we live after death? Can anything be known of the experiences, and employments, of those beyond death? Is there any possible means of communication between the living and the dead? Is there any communication among the dead themselves? Are there any individual joys, or sorrows, among them? 

Steward turns to religion, specifically Christianity, to answer these seemingly scientific queries. He begins by acknowledging religion “has no self-evident axioms from which it may proceed, as science has; no list of experiments by which it can be tested beforehand; but claims Faith first, and investigation afterward.” But he then muddies that distinction: 

“This Great and Glorious Country”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

“Hope, delusive hope”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Nathaniel Paul (1793?-1839)The December release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes two celebratory speeches: the first by Russell Parrott on the anniversary of the cessation of the slave trade, and the second by Nathaniel Paul in observance of the abolition of slavery in New York. Also included this month is an alluring tract by occultist Paschal Beverly Randolph. 


 An Oration on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (1814)

By Russell Parrott

A relatively obscure figure in Philadelphia’s early African American community, Russell Parrott is best remembered for three speeches celebrating the abolition of slave trafficking. The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves went into effect on January 1, 1808, and anniversary orations quickly became a regular feature of the annual cycle of celebrations in African American churches.

After some brief prefatory remarks, Parrott opines: 

“Hope, delusive hope”: Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

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