Friday, September 9, 2022

New Mini-Exhibit: The Early African American Novel

Frontispiece and title page of ClotelleWe have a new exhibit on display in our foyer: The Early African American Novel. Literature written by African American authors expanded enormously during the 19th century. Autobiographical narratives of enslavement, such as Frederick Douglass's 1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave and Harriet Jacobs's 1861 Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl were particularly prominent and influential to the rhetoric of abolition.

At the same time, the African American Novel was developing. This nascent genre dealt with many of the same topics as the autobiographical narrative - such as enslavement, escape, and identity - but in a different literary medium and through a different lens. We've put together a selection of five early works by African American novelists, dating from the mid-1800s to the turn of the century, each important to the growth of that literary tradition. 

Come by the Rauner this September to see the following works on display: William Wells Brown's Clotelle; or, The Colored Heroine: A Tale of the Southern States, Frank J. Webb's The Garies and Their Friends, Harriet E. Wilson's Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, Pauline Hopkins's Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, and Charles W. Chestnutt's The House Behind the Cedars.