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Scholarly Fights for the Souls of Black Folk: Recent Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints

Posted on 10/16/2013

 African-American intellectual life, vibrant despite the odds against it, is notable among the themes of the works in the September 2013 release of Afro-Americana Imprints. Frederick Douglass makes a reasoned academic argument against racial pseudoscience. W.E.B. Du Bois undertakes careful sociological studies, from which he drew much that became The Souls of Black Folk.

The achievements of these thinkers, another imprint reminds us, are all the more impressive in the context of a Southern society so threatened by the prospect of literate African Americans that even Southern women could be jailed for the crime of teaching free Black children to read.

A few titles of interest found in last month’s release: 

The claims of the Negro, ethnologically considered. An address, before the literary societies of Western Reserve College, at commencement, July 12, 1854. By Frederick Douglass (1854)
This was the first commencement speech by an African-American at a major American University. In it, Douglass takes aim at the notion that Negroes are a separate species from Caucasians - a major underpinning of the then-emerging scientific racism used to defend slavery.

Tenting on the plains or, General Custer in Kansas and Texas by Elizabeth B. Custer (1887)
A keenly observant camp follower, Elizabeth Custer was determined not to be separated from her husband, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, in life. After his death, she devoted herself to defending his reputation, which had been greatly tarnished by the disaster at Little Bighorn. One installment in that hagiographic task, this memoir covers their life in the years immediately following the Civil War, in a succession of "rag houses" in Louisiana, Texas and Kansas.

Educational laws of Virginia. The personal narrative of Mrs. Margaret Douglass, a southern woman, who was imprisoned for one month in the common jail of Norfolk, under the laws of Virginia, for the crime of teaching free colored children to read (1854) 

Two academic works by W.E.B Du Bois, on the status of African Americans during the Jim Crow era:

 The Philadelphia Negro: a social study (1899)

The Negro artisan: Report of a social study made under the direction of Atlanta University (1902)

Two spurious, but very popular and influential, memoirs:

The terrible mysteries of the Ku-Klux-Klan. A full expose of the forms, objects, and "dens" of the secret order: with a complete description of their initiation. From the confessions of a member. By Scalpel, M.D. (1868)

Travels through the interior of Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to Morocco; in Caffraria, the kingdoms of Mataman, Angola, Massi, Monoemugi, Muschako, Bahahara, Wangara, Haoussa, &c. &c. and thence through the desert of Sahara and the north of Barbary to Morocco; between the years 1781 and 1797. By Christian Frederick Damberger (1801)

For more information about Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922, please write to

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