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The Earliest African American Literatures

A Critical Reader

Edited by Zachary McLeod Hutchins, Cassander L. Smith

The Earliest African American Literatures

Approx. 216 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6560-3
    Published: December 2021
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6559-7
    Published: December 2021

Paperback Available December 2021, but pre-order your copy today!

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With the publication of the 1619 Project by The New York Times in 2019, a growing number of Americans have become aware that Africans arrived in North America before the Pilgrims. Yet the stories of these Africans and their first descendants remain ephemeral and inaccessible for both the general public and educators. This groundbreaking collection of thirty-eight biographical and autobiographical texts chronicles the lives of literary black Africans in British colonial America from 1643 to 1760 and offers new strategies for identifying and interpreting the presence of black Africans in this early period. Brief introductions preceding each text provide historical context and genre-specific interpretive prompts to foreground their significance. Included here are transcriptions from manuscript sources and colonial newspapers as well as forgotten texts. The Earliest African American Literatures will change the way that students and scholars conceive of early American literature and the role of black Africans in the formation of that literature.

About the Authors

Zachary Hutchins is associate professor of English at Colorado State University.
For more information about Zachary McLeod Hutchins, visit the Author Page.

Cassander L. Smith is associate professor of English at the University of Alabama.
For more information about Cassander L. Smith, visit the Author Page.


"This compelling volume brings together a rich archive of typically inaccessible texts that offer representations of voices that traditional archives have often overlooked. In challenging prior assumptions about early African American literary traditions, this collection not only highlights the value of further study and analysis but also facilitates new perspectives on the intriguing formal and aesthetic engagements of these foundational texts."--Nicole N. Aljoe, Northeastern University