Synopses & Reviews
The past two decades have seen a dramatic resurgence of interest in black women writers, as authors such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison have come to dominate the larger Afro-American literary landscape. Yet the works of the writers who founded and nurtured the black women's literary tradition--nineteenth-century Afro-American women--have remained buried in research libraries or in expensive hard-to-find reprints, often inaccessible to twentieth-century readers.
Oxford University Press, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, rescued the voice of an entire segment of the black tradition by offering thirty volumes of these compelling and rare works of fiction, poetry, autobiography, biography, essays, and journalism. Responding to the wide recognition this series has received, Oxford now presents four of these volumes in paperback. Each book contains an introduction written by an expert in the field, as well as an overview by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the General Editor.
Individually, each of these four works now in paperback--including The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke, Elizabeth Keckley's Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House, Six Women's Slave Narratives, and The Collected Works of Phillis Wheatley--stands as a unique literary contribution in its own right. Collectively providing a rich sampling of the range of works written by black women over the course of more than a century, they pay tribute (now long overdue) to an extraordinary and influential group of Afro-American women. These new editions will enable teachers, students, and general readers of American literature, history, Afro-American culture, and women's studies to hear at last, and learn from, the lost voice of the nineteenth-century black woman writer.
"Welcome and impressive."--American Literature
"Greatly expands the Wheatley canon with neglected and variant poems and with several of her letters."--The Women's Review of Books
"Never before reprinted outside of original publication."--Publishers Weekly
"Questions of race, gender, and literary form intersect in the poetry the Schomburg Library presents. Phyllis Wheatley's poems are read freshly in the light of what John C. Shields calls her 'poetics of liberation.'"--Jean Fagan Yellin, The Washington Post Book World
"Launched two traditions at once--the black American literary tradition and the black woman's literary tradition..."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from the Foreword to the Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers.
"Wonderful."--Eric J. Sundquist, The New York Times Book Review
"It is my objective in this volume to do what I can to provoke serious interest in reading the fine poetry and prose of this harshly underrated black American poet...After satisfying her thirst for knowledge of words by reading virtually all the British and American poets of her century, this poet discovered for herself her own idiom....What Wheatley essentially does is to decide that this world, which allows slavery to remain legitimate, is unsatisfactory to her; so she manipulates the conventions of neoclassicism to build in her poems another, acceptable world. This use of poetry to achieve freedom constitutes a poetics of liberation."--John Shields, from his Preface
"Excellent analysis of Wheatley's poetry, presenting new, dimensional insights."--Regina Jennings, Franklin and Marshall College
"Terrific."--Ronna C. Johnson, Tufts University
"The volume is a generous gift of exemplary and painstaking scholarship. Those who have never before encountered Shields' multiform Phillis will meet a friend in the poet and in this critic-bard."--Linda Susan Beard, Michigan State University
"The notes and other supporting materials (criticism and variant poems and letters) are a teacher's dream. I could not imagine my early African-American Writers course without this edition. It is reasonably priced yet very expensive, even elaborate, in its conception."--William W. Cook, Dartmouth College
Praise for the series:
"A major contribution to American literary history....Now, through this collection, the thoughts, perspectives, imagination, and voices of nineteenth-century Afro-American women are accessible to the general public."--Black American Literature Forum
"In an editorial feat of epic proportions, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has rescued the vast writings of nineteenth-century black women from oblivion....He has reinstated black literary ancestresses to their positions of prominence....Groundbreaking."--Marcellus Blount, The Village Voice Literary Supplement
"What an astonishing gift...this collection is!...To have all of these black women writers' works together in one collection seems almost a fabulous dream."--Alice Walker
"What an astonishing gift...this collection is!"--Alice Walker
"The collaboration among The Schomburg Center, Oxford University Press, and these exceptional scholars is an extraordinary event...but the collection is a spectacular achievement."--Toni Morrison
About the Author
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is Chairman of the Department of Afro-American Studies and W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.