- About the Contributors
- Slave Narratives and Historical Memory
- Slave Narratives and Archival Research
- Slave Narratives and Historical Understanding
- Slave Narratives and U.S. Legal History
- The WPA Narratives as Historical Sources
- The Other Slave Narratives: The Works Progress Administration Interviews
- Lost in the Archives: The Pension Bureau Files
- The Witness of African American Folkways: The Landscape of Slave Narratives
- The Slave Narrative as Material Text
- Reading Communities: Slave Narratives and the Discursive Reader
- A Reflection on the Slave Narrative and American Literature
- The Slave Narrative and Visual Culture
- Slave Narratives, 1865–1900
- “This Horrible Exhibition”: Sexuality in Slave Narratives
- “There is Might in Each”: Slave Narratives and Black Feminism
- “I Rose a Freeman”: Power, Property, and the Performance of Manhood in the Slave Narratives
- Family and Community in Slave Narratives
- Collaborative American Slave Narratives
- Environmental Criticism and the Slave Narratives
- Locating Slave Narratives
- Slave Narratives and Hemispheric Studies
- Caribbean Slave Narratives
- Slave Narratives, the Romantic Imagination and Transatlantic Literature
- “Puzzling the Intervals”: Blind Tom and the Poetics of the Sonic Slave Narrative
- The Truth of Slave Narratives: Slavery’s Traces in Postmemory Narratives of Postemancipation Life
Abstract and Keywords
This article reads the history of the slave narrative in light of the tension between, on the one hand, the quest of exceptional individuals for liberation, and, on the other, the chronicle of exploited workers striving collectively to achieve equality. The story of the fugitive slave as an individual has been more explicitly a part of American literary history than has the more collective story that emerged when, in response to escaping slaves crossing Union lines during the Civil War, fugitives were declared contrabands, thus transforming the war, irrevocably, into a war for the abolition of slavery. This tension within the slave narrative reflects broader tensions within American literature generally to reconcile the individual’s quest for unimpeded freedom as represented by Herman Melville’s Ahab with the desire to acknowledge the political priority of black and white workers.
Kenneth W. Warren is Professor of English at the University of Chicago and author of What Was African American Literature? (2011). He coedited Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought (2009) with Adolph Reed, Jr. and Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs (2013) with Tess Chakkalakal.
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