Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery and Abolition



Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery and Abolition

This edition

"Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery and Abolition." Ed. Michelle D. Commander, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Foreword Kevin Young. New York: Penguin, 2021. xxix+617 pp.

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Table of contents

● Kevin Young / Foreword
● Michelle D. Commander / Introduction
● Suggestions for Further Reading

● David Horsmanden / from "The New-York Conspiracy; or, A History of the Negro Plot, with the Journal of the Proceedings Against the Conspirators at New York in the years 1741-2" (1810)
● Anon. / from "Negro Plot: An Account of the Late Intended Insurrection Among a Portion of the Blacks of the City" (1822)
● Thomas Wentworth Higginson / from "Nat Turner's insurrection" (1861)
● Osborne P. Anderson / from "A Voice from Harper's Ferry" (1861)

● David Walker / from "Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America" (1829)
● Sarah Mapps Douglass, "Anti-Slavery Speech Before the Female Literary Society of Philadelphia," The Liberator (1832)
● Maria Stewart / from "Productions of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart Presented to the First African Baptist Church & Society, of the City of Boston" (1835)
● James Forten Jr. / An Address Delivered Before the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society of Philadelphia, on the Evening of the 14th of April, 1836 (1936)
● Lucy Stanton / "A Plea for the Oppressed (1850)
● Mary Ann Shadd Cary / from "A Plea for Emigration; or, Notes of Canada West" (1852)
● Martin Robinson Delany / from "The Condition, Elevation Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered" (1852)
● James W. C. Pennington / from "The Reasonableness of the Abolition of Slavery at the South, a Legitimate Inference from the Success of British Emancipation. An Address, Delivered at Hartford, Connecticut, on the First of August, 1856" (1856)
● Anon. / Selections from the "Anglo-African Magazine" (Jan 1860)
● H. Ford Douglas / I Do Not Believe in the Antislavery of Abraham Lincoln "The Liberator" (1860)

● James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw / from "A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself" (1772)
● Henry Brown, from "Narrative of Henry Box Brown, Who Escaped from Slavery Enclosed in a Box 3 Feet Long and 2 Feet Wide" (1849)
● Benjamin Drew / from "A North-Side View of Slavery, The Refugee; or, The Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada, Related by Themselves" (1856)
● Thomas H. Jones / from "Experience and Personal Narrative of Uncle Tom Jones; Who Was for Forty Years a Slave. Also the Surprising Adventures of Wild Tom, of the Island Retreat, a Fugitive Negro from South Carolina" (c. 1850s)
● Eliza Potter / from "A Hairdresser's Experience in High Life" (1859)
● Charles Ball / from "Fifty Years in Chains; or, The Life of an American Slave" (1860)
● William Craft / from "Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or, The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery" (1860)
● Hiram Mattison / from "Louisa Picquet, the Octoroon; or, Inside Views of Southern Domestic Life" (1861)
● Harper Twelvetrees / from "The Story of the Life of John Anderson, The Fugitive Slave" (1863)
● Elizabeth Keckley / from "Behind the Scenes; or, Thirty Years a Slave, and Four Years in the White House" (1868)
● William Still / Selections from "The Underground Railroad" (1872)
● Jacob Stroyer / from "My Life in the South" (1885)
● Bethany Veney / from "The Narrative of Bethany Veney, a Slave Woman" (1889)
● Octavia V. Rogers Albert / from "The House of Bondage; or, Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves" (1891)
● Henry Clay Bruce / from "The New Man: Twenty-Nine Years a Slave, Twenty-Nine Years a Free Man" (1895)

Poetry and Music
● Jupiter Hammon / An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York (1787)
● Jupiter Hammon / An Evening's Improvement, Shewing the Necessity of Beholding the Lamb of God. To Which is Added a Dialogue Entitled "The Kind Master and Dutiful Servant" (1790)
● Jupiter Hammon / An Essay on Slavery, with Justification to Divine Providence, That God Rules over All Things (1786)
● George Horton / On Liberty and Slavery, from "Poems by a Slave" (1837)
● John Greenleaf Whittier / selections from "Poems Written During the Progress of the Abolition Question in the United States, Between the Years 1830 and 1838" (1837)
● Edwin F. Hatfield / selections from "Freedom's Lyre; or, Psalms, Hymns, and Sacred Songs for the Slave and His Friends" (1840)
● William Wells Brown / selections from "The Anti-Slavery Harp: A Collection of Songs for Anti-Slavery Meetings" (1849)
● Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / selections from "Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects" (1857)

Children's Literature.
● Anon. / from "The American Anti-Slavery Almanac" for 1837's 'Children's Department' (1837)
● Eliza Lee Follen / from "The Liberty Cap" (1846)
● Hannah Townsend and Mary Townsend / from "The Anti-Slavery Alphabet" (1847)
● Jane Elizabeth Jones / from "The Young Abolitionists; or, Conversations on Slavery" (1848)
● Kate Barclay / from "Minnie May; with Other Rhymes and Stories" (1856)
● Anonymous, Julia Colman, and Matilda G. Thompson / from "The Child's Anti-Slavery Book: Containing a Few Words About American Slave Children and Stories of Slave-Life" (1859)
● (Mrs.) J. D. Chaplin / from "Cain and Patsy; the Gospel Preached to the Poor. A Story of Slave Life" (1860)
● Oliver Optic / from "Watch and Wait; or, The Young Fugitives, a Story for Young People" (1864)
● William Wells Brown / from "The Escape; or, A Leap for Freedom" (1858)
● Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins / from "Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad" (1878)

● Frederick Douglass / from The Mission of the War (1864)
● Charlotte Forten / from "Life on the Sea Islands" (1864)
● Susie King Taylor / from "Reminiscences of My Life in Camp with the 33d United States Colored Troops Late 1st S.C. Volunteers" (1902)
● Frances Ellen Watkins Harper / We Are All Bound Up Together (1866)
● Henry McNeal Turner / I Claim the Rights of a Man (1868)
● Congressman Richard Harvey Cain / from All We Ask Is Equal Laws, Equal Legislation, and Equal Rights (1874)
● Lucy E. Parsons / I Am an Anarchist (1886)
● Anon. / Lost Friends Advertisements from the "Southwestern Christian Advocate" (1880s-1890s)

● Bibliography

Reviews and notices of anthology

New York Times Book Review
Manning, Chandra. "Little-known Voices Sing the History of Slavery and Resistance." "Washington Post" 5 March 2021.
● "'Unsung' is the first in a projected series of anthologies drawn from the Schomburg Center's collections which, explains series editor Kevin Young, 'will consider the full range of the Black lives stewarded' by the Schomburg" in its collection of over 11 million items. Although this anthology includes some White abolitionists, it centers on Black voices, including less familiar ones such as Harper Twelvetrees, Bethany Veney, and Lucy Parsons. "[T]he book's more than 50 selections [including 20 by women] span from before American independence to the dawn of the 20th century."
● "In the introduction, [Michelle] Commander argues that 'Unsung' 'makes the case for recognizing Black people as agents and architects of their own lives and ultimate liberation,' which is an important but also incomplete way of talking about why this book matters. . . . as much recent historical scholarship has emphasized, reframing the narrative wholly as one of 'agency,' in which enslaved African Americans held complete control over their own fate, underestimates the enormous barriers of power and violence that they faced. . . . From beginning to end, selections illuminate both the value and the limitations of the agency paradigm. . . . The song sung in these pages is not solely an aria to agency or a tragic chorus about limits; it is both. It perseveres in the mission described in Arturo Schomburg’s ‘The Negro Digs Up His Past’ as excavating history to ‘restore what slavery took away.’ It shouts against the silencing alluded to in the 'Unsung' title. Like the Harlem Renaissance and the Schomburg Center, 'Unsung' is a work of both history and art.”
"Kirkus Reviews" (1 Jan. 2021; posted online 8 Dec. 2020)
● "As comprehensive a collection as now exists and one that should be required reading in history and literature classes."

Commentary on anthology

Bassett, Ray. "Talking Writing: Professor Michelle Commander on 'Unsung' [in conversation with Richard Winham]." WUTC.org 24 Feb. 2021. 29 min 26 sec.
Fisher, Rich. "Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery and Abolition." "StudioTulsa" 16 Aug. 2021. 28 min 58 sec.
Skinner, Dan. "Conversations: Michelle Commander, 'Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery and Abolition." Kansas Public Radio. 29 March 2021. 16 min 26 sec.
Rheannon, Francesca. "Heather McGhee, The Sum of Us, & Michelle Commander, Unsung." "Writer's Voice with Francesca Rheannon." Feb. 2021. Podcast.

See also

Schomburg Center book launch Livestream (16 Feb. 2021)
Michelle D. Commander's personal webpage

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