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A Faithful Account of the Race:
African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture)
by Stephen G. Hall
The University of North Carolina Press

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 field of historical study. He demonstrates how these works borrowed from and engaged with 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.


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Historical work by African Americans early on served to construct a complex black subject who transcended the narrow confines of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century life. Likewise, in this study, my goal is to shift the perspective from the external conditions that African Americans experienced for more than half of the nineteenth century, manacled as they were by chains and fetters, and to look at their historical production through their own eyes, dreams, and visions. Here, African Americans represent more than stolen property, chattel in the bottom of slaves ships, and beasts of burden in the Americas. They are also thinking, rational, and critically engaged human beings. Focusing on their textual production brings this point into broad relief. The texts under study here tell a uniquely nineteenth-century story of the emergence of the book as an increasingly important indicator or measure of intellectual worth and ability in a larger society determined to negate black humanity. Books served as barometers of what types of contributions blacks could make to racial as well as national literature.

From A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America by Stephen G. Hall. Copyright 2009 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher.


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