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Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies (New Americanists)

McHenry, Elizabeth

23 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0822329956 / ISBN 13: 9780822329954
Published by Duke University Press Books
Used Condition: Very Good
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost ...

Publisher: Duke University Press Books

Book Condition:Very Good

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

Over the past decade the popularity of black writers including E. Lynn Harris and Terry McMillan has been hailed as an indication that an active African American reading public has come into being. Yet this is not a new trend; there is a vibrant history of African American literacy, literary associations, and book clubs. Forgotten Readers reveals that neglected past, looking at the reading practices of free blacks in the antebellum north and among African Americans following the Civil War. It places the black upper and middle classes within American literary history, illustrating how they used reading and literary conversation as a means to assert their civic identities and intervene in the political and literary cultures of the United States from which they were otherwise excluded.

Forgotten Readers expands our definition of literacy and urges us to think of literature as broadly as it was conceived of in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth McHenry delves into archival sources, including the records of past literary societies and the unpublished writings of their members. She examines particular literary associations, including the Saturday Nighters of Washington, D.C., whose members included Jean Toomer and Georgia Douglas Johnson. She shows how black literary societies developed, their relationship to the black press, and the ways that African American women’s clubs—which flourished during the 1890s—encouraged literary activity. In an epilogue, McHenry connects this rich tradition of African American interest in books, reading, and literary conversation to contemporary literary phenomena such as Oprah Winfrey’s book club.

From the Publisher:

"Forgotten Readers focuses upon an aspect of African American culture that was extraordinarily significant in the development of its literary tradition and in its political and social development as well, but, one that, as Elizabeth McHenry notes, has been ignored or simplistically described. This book will be instrumental in challenging and changing some erroneous notions about African American history and literature specifically, and American culture in general."—Frances Smith Foster, author of Written by Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746–1892

"Elizabeth McHenry’s Forgotten Readers is a seminal study of the pivotal role that literary societies played in the shaping of American African culture in the nineteenth century. While many scholars knew of the existence of these societies, most of us had presumed their records to be lost or non-existent. Through meticulous research, McHenry has managed to reconstruct the nature and function of these curious arenas of literary culture in splendid detail. The study is a major contribution to the history of literacy in the African American community. No scholar or student can understand nineteenth-century, African American literary history without reading this book."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University

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