Unchained Voices

Vincent Carretta

Published by University Press of Kentucky, 1996
ISBN 10: 0813119766 / ISBN 13: 9780813119762
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Synopsis: In Unchained Voices, Vincent Carretta has assembled the most comprehensive anthology ever published of writings by eighteenth-century people of African descent, enabling many of these authors to be heard clearly for the first time in two centuries. Their writings reflect the surprisingly diverse experiences of blacks on both sides of the Atlantic-America, Britain, the West Indies, and Africa - between 1760 and 1798. Letters, poems, captivity narratives, petitions, criminal autobiographies, economic treatises, travel accounts, and antislavery arguments were produced during a time of various and changing political and religious loyalties. Although the theme of liberation from physical or spiritual captivity runs throughout the collection, freedom also clearly led to hardship and disappointment for a number of these authors. In his introduction, Carretta reconstructs the historical and cultural context of the works, emphasizing the constraints of the eighteenth-century genres under which these authors wrote. The texts and annotations are based on extensive research in both published and manuscript holdings of archives in the United States and the United Kingdom. Appropriate for undergraduates as well as for scholars, Unchained Voices gives a clear sense of the major literary and cultural issues at the heart of writings in English by people of African descent.

Review: Many of us know of the poet Phillis Wheatley, the first black woman to publish a book in the Americas, but many of her contemporaries in America and in England remain obscure. This anthology, compiled by Vincent Carretta, a professor of English at the University of Maryland, goes a long way toward rectifying that omission. Here, Carretta collects the work of nearly 20 black writers from the late 1700s. Some, like Ignatius Sancho, a black Londoner who corresponded with important figures of his day such as the author Laurence Sterne, and Olaudah Equiano, an early black abolitionist who created the slave narrative, are well known. Others, like the poet Francis Williams, or Johnson Green, who served in the Revolutionary Army, and whose confession before his execution in 1786 for burglary is included here, are less so. This is an important collection but, while Carretta provides an introduction and footnotes, one wishes he had provided brief biographies for each of the contributors.

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Title: Unchained Voices
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication Date: 1996
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: Used: Good

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