To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865

University of Illinois Press, 17 oct. 2022 - 368 pages
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To Tell A Free Story traces in unprecedented detail the history of Black autobiography from the colonial era through Emancipation. Beginning with the 1760 narrative by Briton Hammond, William L. Andrews explores first-person public writings by Black Americans. Andrews includes but also goes beyond slave narratives to analyze spiritual biographies, criminal confessions, captivity stories, travel accounts, interviews, and memoirs. As he shows, Black writers continuously faced the fact that northern whites often refused to accept their stories and memories as sincere, and especially distrusted portraits of southern whites as inhuman. Black writers had to silence parts of their stories or rely on subversive methods to make facts tellable while contending with the sensibilities of the white editors, publishers, and readers they relied upon and hoped to reach.

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William L. Andrews is E. Maynard Adams Professor of English in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt,, editor of Life of John Thompson, a Fugitive Slave, and coeditor of Slave Narratives from the Library of America.

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