1st Edition

Writing History from the Margins African Americans and the Quest for Freedom

    174 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    184 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    With contributions from leading American and European scholars, this collection of original essays surveys the actors and the modes of writing history from the "margins" of society, focusing specifically on African Americans.

    Nearly 100 years after The Journal of Negro History was founded, this book assesses the legacy of the African American historians, mostly amateur historians initially, who wrote the history of their community between the 1830s and World War II. Subsequently, the growth of the civil rights movement further changed historical paradigms--and the place of African Americans and that of black writers in publishing and in the historical profession. Through slavery and segregation, self-educated and formally educated Blacks wrote works of history, often in order to inscribe African Americans within the main historical narrative of the nation, with a two-fold objective: to make African Americans proud of their past and to enable them to fight against white prejudice.

    Over the past decade, historians have turned to the study of these pioneers, but a number of issues remain to be considered. This anthology will contribute to answering several key questions concerning who published these books, and how were they distributed, read, and received. Little has been written concerning what they reveal about the construction of professional history in the nineteenth century when examined in relation to other writings by Euro-Americans working in an academic setting or as independent researchers.

    • Introduction

    Claire Parfait, Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry, and Claire Bourhis-Mariotti

    PART I: New Perspectives on African American History

    • Chapter 1. "The grandest book ever written": Advertising Joseph T. Wilson's Black Phalanx (1888)

    Claire Parfait

    • Chapter 2. A Race Against Obscurity: Merl R. Eppse and The Negro, Too, in American History

    Cheryl Knott

    • Chapter 3. Abolitionist Black Histories and Historians in Massachusetts Petitions

    Nicole Topich

    • Chapter 4. From the Margins with a Legacy of Agency in Africanity: An Encyclopedic Idea

    Michael Benjamin

    PART II : Material and Visual Culture and the Writing of History

    • Chapter 5. Work, Class, and Respectability in Robert Roberts’s House Servant’s Directory or, A Monitor for Private Families (Boston, 1827)

    Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry

    • Chapter 6. Expressions of Self and Belonging: Enslaved People and Race-Based Fashion in the Antebellum U.S. South

    Katie Knowles

    • Chapter 7. African American Quilts: Color, Creation, (Counter)Culture

    Géraldine Chouard

    • Chapter 8. Freeman Murray and the Art of Social Justice

    James Smalls

    • Chapter 9. Romare Bearden: The Making of a Black Political Cartoonist

    Amy Kirschke

    • Notes on the Contributors and Editors

    • Index


    Claire Parfait is Professor of American Studies and Book History at Université Paris 13. She has authored The Publishing History of Uncle Tom's Cabin, 1852-2002 (Ashgate, 2007) and, in collaboration with Marie-Jeanne Rossignol, an annotated translation of William Wells Brown's Narrative of William Wells Brown, A Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself (1847) (PURH, 2012). She is principal investigator of the three-year Sorbonne Paris Cité project "Writing History from the Margins: the Case of African Americans" (http://hdlm.hypotheses.org/).

    Hélène Le Dantec-Lowry is a Professor of American Studies at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris, France), where she directs the Center for Research on North American History (CRAN). She is also editor-in-chief for history of the French journal of American studies (RFEA). She has published on the African American family, the civil rights movement, black domestics, and material culture, including women’s cookbooks. Her most recent book, coedited with Ambre Ivol, is entitled Generations of Social Movements: Memory and the Left in the US and France (Routledge, 2015).

    Claire Bourhis-Mariotti is an Associate Professor of American History at Université Paris 8. She has authored L’union fait la force. Les Noirs américains et Haïti, 1804-1893 (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2016), and recently coedited and coauthored a collection of essays entitled Couleurs, esclavage, libérations coloniales, 1804-1860 (Bécherel: Les Perséides, 2013).

    Although various scholars have called for focused attention to early African American historians, those calls have largely gone unanswered, until now. Writing History from the Margins shows us what we can learn when we take on the deeply interdisciplinary work of studying African American historians and historiography directly, and not just as a sidebar to other concerns. With attention to print, material, and visual cultures, Writing History from the Margins adds significantly to our understanding of a large range of efforts--national and local, encyclopedic and specific--to record and shape African American history. -- John Ernest, author of Liberation Historiography: African Ameircan Writers and the Challenge of History, 1794-1861

    By taking two side steps--looking at marginal historians and departing from the main historiographical trends--this very coherent collection of essays offers new perspectives and devises new methodologies to interpret extremely varied sources. This transatlantic, transdisciplinary discussion makes Antebellum black voices heard and reintegrates them into the wider national narrative. -- Nathalie Dessens, University of Toulouse-Jean Jaurès