The Escape; Or, A Leap for Freedom

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2018-03-16 01:58Z by Steven

The Escape; Or, A Leap for Freedom

University of Tennessee Press
2001-03-21
112 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1572331051
(Originally published in 1858)

William Wells Brown (1814-1884)

Edited by:

John Ernest, Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor of English
University of New Hampshire

A well-known nineteenth-century abolitionist and former slave, William Wells Brown was a prolific writer and lecturer who captivated audiences with readings of his drama The Escape; or, a Leap for Freedom (1858). The first published play by an African American writer, The Escape explored the complexities of American culture at a time when tensions between North and South were about to explode into the Civil War. This new volume presents the first-edition text of Brown’s play and features an extensive introduction that establishes the work’s continuing significance.

The Escape centers on the attempted sexual violation of a slave and involves many characters of mixed race, through which Brown commented on such themes as moral decay, white racism, and black self-determination. Rich in action and faithful in dialect, it raises issues relating not only to race but also to gender by including concepts of black and white masculinity and the culture of southern white and enslaved women. It portrays a world in which slavery provided a convenient means of distinguishing between the white North and the white South, allowing northerners to express moral sentiments without recognizing or addressing the racial prejudice pervasive among whites in both regions.

John Ernest’s introductory essay balances the play’s historical and literary contexts, including information on Brown and his career, as well as on slavery, abolitionism, and sectional politics. It also discusses the legends and realities of the Underground Railroad, examines the role of antebellum performance art—including blackface minstrelsy and stage versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin—in the construction of race and national identity, and provides an introduction to theories of identity as performance.

A century and a half after its initial appearance, The Escape remains essential reading for students of African American literature. Ernest’s keen analysis of this classic play will enrich readers’ appreciation of both the drama itself and the era in which it appeared.

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Harriet Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing, and Region

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States, Women on 2009-11-03 22:31Z by Steven

Harriet Wilson’s New England: Race, Writing, and Region

University of New Hampshire Press
University Press of New England
2007
272 pp. 18 B&W illus., 4 appendixes 6 x 9″
Paper ISBN: 978-1-58465-642-5
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-58465-641-8

Edited by

JerriAnne Boggis, Director
Harriet Wilson Project

Eve Allegra Raimon, Associate Professor of Arts and Humanities
University of Southern Maine

Barbara A. White, Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies
University of New Hampshire

Forward by

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W. E. B. Dubois Professor of the Humanities
Harvard University

This volume, with a foreword by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., advances efforts to correct the historical record about the racial complexity and richness characteristic of rural New England’s past.

In the mid-nineteenth century, Harriet E. Wilson, an enterprising woman of mixed racial heritage, wrote an autobiographical novel describing the abuse and servitude endured by a young black girl in the supposedly free North. Originally published in Boston in 1859 and “lost” until its 1983 republication by noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, is generally considered the first work of fiction written by an African American woman published in the United States.

With this collection, the first devoted entirely to Wilson and her novel, the editors have compiled essays that seek to understand Wilson within New England and New England as it might have appeared to Wilson and her contemporaries. The contributors include prominent historians, literary critics, psychologists, librarians, and diversity activists. Harriet Wilson’s New England joins other critical works in the emerging field known as the New Regionalism in resurrecting historically hidden ethnic communities in rural New England and exploring their erasure from public memory. It offers new literary and historical interpretations of Our Nig and responds to renewed interest in Wilson’s dramatic account of servitude and racial discrimination in the North.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword – Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Making Space for Harriet E. Wilson
  • NEW HAMPSHIRE’S “SHADOWS”: CONTEXT AND HISTORY
    • Of Bottles and Books: Reconsidering the Readers of Harriet Wilson’s “Our Nig” – Eric Gardner
    • Harriet Wilson’s Mentors: The Walkers of Worcester – Barbara A. White
    • George and Timothy Blanchard: Surviving and Thriving in Nineteenth-Century Milford – Reginald H. Pitts
    • “As Soon as I Saw My Sable Brother, I Felt More at Home”: Sampson Battis, Harriet Wilson, and New Hampshire Town History – David H. Watters
    • New Hampshire Forgot: African Americans in a Community by the Sea – Valerie Cunningham
  • READING “SKETCHES FROM THE LIFE OF A FREE BLACK”: GENRE AND GENDER
    • Slavery’s Shadows: Narrative Chiaroscuro and “Our Nig” – Mary Louise Kete
    • Recovered Autobiographies and the Marketplace: “Our Nig’s” Generic Genealogies and Harriet Wilson’s Entrepreneurial Enterprise – P. Gabrielle Foreman
    • The Disorderly Girl in Harriet E. Wilson’s “Our Nig” – Lisa E. Green
    • Beyond the Page: Rape and the Failure of Genre – Cassandra Jackson
    • Miss Marsh’s Uncommon School Reform – Eve Allegra Raimon
    • Fairy Tales and “Our Nig”: Feminist Approaches to Teaching Harriet Wilson’s Novel – Helen Frink
  • “A FAITHFUL BAND OF SUPPORTERS AND DEFENDERS”: PERSONAL REFLECTIONS
    • Losing Equilibrium: Harriet E. Wilson, Frado, and Me – John Ernest
    • Discovering Harriet Wilson in My Own Backyard – William Allen
    • A Conversation with Tami Sanders – Gloria Henry
    • Not Somewhere Else, But Here – JerriAnne Boggis
  • Contributors
  • Index
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