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A Faithful Account of the Race

A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America

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    A Faithful Account of the Race
    Book Description:

    The civil rights and black power movements expanded popular awareness of the history and culture of African Americans. But, as Stephen Hall observes, African American authors, intellectuals, ministers, and abolitionists had been writing the history of the black experience since the 1800s. With this book, Hall recaptures and reconstructs a rich but largely overlooked tradition of historical writing by African Americans.Hall charts the origins, meanings, methods, evolution, and maturation of African American historical writing from the period of the Early Republic to the twentieth-century professionalization of the larger field of historical study. He demonstrates how these works borrowed from and engaged with ideological and intellectual constructs from mainstream intellectual movements including the Enlightenment, Romanticism, Realism, and Modernism. Hall also explores the creation of discursive spaces that simultaneously reinforced and offered counternarratives to more mainstream historical discourse. He sheds fresh light on the influence of the African diaspora on the development of historical study. In so doing, he provides a holistic portrait of African American history informed by developments within and outside the African American community.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0536-4
    Subjects: Sociology, History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Introduction (pp. 1-16)

    NOT TEN YEARS AFTER the end of the Civil War and two years before the formal collapse of Reconstruction, William Wells Brown, fugitive slave and abolitionist, authored one of the earliest race histories of the postbellum period,The Rising Son; or, Antecedents of the Colored Race(1874). No stranger to racial agitation or prognosis, Brown had been an active participant in the antislavery movement. During the controversy over the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, he fled to England to avoid recapture and reenslavement and played an important role in the transatlantic abolitionist community, a closely knit group of black abolitionists...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Troubling the Pages of Historians African American Intellectuals and Historical Writing in the Early Republic, 1817–1837 (pp. 17-48)

    THE ERA OF THE EARLY REPUBLIC WAS, without a doubt, a hopeful and promising moment in American history. Not only had the country expanded demographically and spatially after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it abolished the Atlantic slave trade in 1808 and successfully weathered a significant challenge to its sovereignty by defeating the British in the War of 1812. Yet, African Americans searched, often in vain, for recognition of, and appreciation for, their contributions to this national development and their achievements in this process. David Walker recognized the incongruity; he also understood the stakes involved in an accurate representation of...

  6. CHAPTER 2 To Present a Just View of Our Origin Creating An African American Historical Discourse, 1837–1850 (pp. 49-85)

    JAMES W. C. PENNINGTON AND NOAH WEBSTER represent two distinct understandings of black history during the antebellum period. Pennington, in ways similar to earlier black intellectuals, called for a serious interrogation of black origins that transcended the narrow confines of the American present. Noah Webster, convinced of the idea of permanent black inferiority, erased black achievement not only from the present but since “the first ages of the world.” Both of these approaches speak to the ways intellectuals grappled over the place of blacks not only in the American present but in the human experience. They also clearly demonstrate the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Destiny of the Colored People African American History between Compromise and Jubilee, 1850–1863 (pp. 86-122)

    INCREASING CONTROVERSY over the place of black people in American life marked discussions of the 1840s. During that decade, the debate between proslavery and free-soil advocates heated up, with Free-Soilers not necessarily opposing slavery but simply its expansion. Suggesting just how divided the nation was even among traditional allies, leading black antislavery activists repudiated Garrisonian abolitionism and adopted a posture that called for an immediate end to the “peculiar institution.” This decade also featured the renewed popularity of emigrationist thought. Some free blacks concluded that they would never be fully incorporated into American life and, therefore, they should simply leave....

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Historical Mind of Emancipation Writing African American History at the Dawn of Freedom, 1863–1882 (pp. 123-150)

    BETWEEN 1863, which marked the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation, the publication of William Wells Brown’sThe Black Man, and the decisive Union victory at Gettysburg, and 1882, the year of the publication of Joseph Wilson’sEmancipation: Its Course and Progress, there occurred a decisive shift in the style and content of historical writing among African Americans. Between Brown’s and Wilson’s work, William Still’sThe Underground Railroadrepresents a tangible example of the method by which black scholars wrote and disseminated African American history. Still, head of Philadelphia’s Vigilance Committee from 1850 to 1861, reconstructed the harrowing tales and escapes...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Advancement in Numbers, Knowledge, and Power African American History in Post-Reconstruction America, 1883–1915 (pp. 151-187)

    THE 1880S MARKED a complete break with antebellum modes of historical discourse. First, the post-Reconstruction period witnessed the intellectual maturation of several constituencies in the African American community. Although ministers, journalists, and educators—representative men and women of the race—assumed responsibility for presenting the race in the most favorable light, as they always had, their level of education and increasing sophistication separated them from their antebellum predecessors. Second, while early postbellum writers, primarily abolitionists, looked to the future by analyzing the past, historical writers of the new period firmly situated their historical discourse in the postbellum period as many...

  10. CHAPTER 6 To Smite the Rock of Knowledge The Black Academy and the Professionalization of History (pp. 188-226)

    BY THE TURN OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, two important efforts began to come together to allow an important shift in the production and promotion of African American history. First, black intellectuals of all stripes had over the previous century produced volumes of black history. Recalling the presence of black people in the Bible and ancient history, their contributions not only to all the nation’s wars beginning with the American Revolution, but to the national economy, to independence movements in America and abroad, and to the general life of the country, the writers of history had established a published record of...

  11. Conclusion (pp. 227-234)

    AS A HISTORIAN INTERESTED IN HISTORIOGRAPHY, I constantly look for ways to interject into conversations some discussion of the origins and evolution of African American history as a discipline. Most often, however, conversations of this type occur in class or among colleagues and friends. Despite an outpouring of pathbreaking work in African American history and the common belief that more opportunities to engage African American history exist than ever before, our ideas about the field’s origins, especially textual writing, remain fairly underdeveloped and static. When people are asked what they know about the field’s origins, it is not uncommon for...

  12. Notes (pp. 235-290)
  13. Bibliography (pp. 291-326)
  14. Index (pp. 327-334)