Until recently, scholars believed that African American children’s literature did not exist before 1900. Now, Who Writes for Black Children? opens the door to a rich archive of largely overlooked literature read by black children. This volume’s combination of analytic essays, bibliographic materials, and primary texts offers alternative histories for early African American literary studies and children’s literature studies.
From poetry written by a slave for a plantation school to joyful “death biographies” of African Americans in the antebellum North to literature penned by African American children themselves, Who Writes for Black Children? presents compelling new definitions of both African American literature and children’s literature. Editors Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane bring together a rich collection of essays that argue for children as an integral part of the nineteenth-century black community and offer alternative ways to look at the relationship between children and adults.
Including two bibliographic essays that provide a list of texts for future research as well as an extensive selection of hard-to-find primary texts, Who Writes for Black Children? broadens our ideas of authorship, originality, identity, and political formations. In the process, the volume adds new texts to the canon of African American literature while providing a fresh perspective on our desire for the literary origin stories that create canons in the first place.
Contributors: Karen Chandler, U of Louisville; Martha J. Cutter, U of Connecticut; LuElla D’Amico, Whitworth U; Brigitte Fielder, U of Wisconsin–Madison; Eric Gardner, Saginaw Valley State U; Mary Niall Mitchell, U of New Orleans; Angela Sorby, Marquette U; Ivy Linton Stabell, Iona College; Valentina K. Tikoff, DePaul U; Laura Wasowicz; Courtney Weikle-Mills, U of Pittsburgh; Nazera Sadiq Wright, U of Kentucky.
Katharine Capshaw is professor of English at the University of Connecticut and the author of Civil Rights Childhood: Picturing Liberation in African American Photobooks (Minnesota, 2014) and Children’s Literature of the Harlem Renaissance.
Anna Mae Duane is associate professor of English at the University of Connecticut and coeditor of the journal Common-place. She is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim.
"Was any literature written specifically for black children living before 1900 in the Western Hemisphere? By posing this question, Capshaw and Duane force a reckoning with a gap in children’s literature studies that is predicated on the assumption that slavery invalidated a space for black children to consume literature."—V. A. Murrenus Pilmaier, University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan
"The volume’s strength lies in the interdisciplinary perspectives it provides on both African American children’s literature and the experiences of African American child-readers."—The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
"Striking the hard-to-accomplish balance between in-process scholarly exploration and textbook framing, this collection manages not only to profess but also, impressively, to teach."—MELUS
"Who Writes for Black Children? is a compelling collection of scholarly essays and primary material that will be valuable to anyone interested in the history of childhood—or in book history, reading and reception history, materiality, ephemera, or interpretation. Examining poetry, fiction, biography, illustrations, periodicals, friendship albums, pamphlets, marginalia, and more, the collection analyzes the goals and rhetorical strategies of diverse genres published for African American children and (perhaps) read by them."—Journal of American History