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Black Writers in Britain: 1760-1890.

Paul Edwards and David Dabydeen, eds. Black Writers in Britain, 1760-1890. New York: Edinburg UP/Columbia UP, 1993. 256 pp. $25.00

Sensitive to gender, forced and voluntary migration, and generic diversity, this valuable volume contains excerpts from over twenty black writers in Britain during a critical period in African, British, and Caribbean history when the controversy over abolition of the slave trade and emancipation of slavery was at its peak.

The generic mix of the volume is especially rich: early, orally dictated accounts by Briton Hammon and Ukawsaw Gronniosaw; the speech made by John Henry, the Naimbana, in the House of Commons; the self-defense by William Davidson from the dock when he was tried for sedition; Robert Wedderburn's polemic against blasphemy; letters by Ignatius Sancho; and autobiographical accounts by Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Mary Seacole, and Harriet Jacobs (Linda Brent). In particular, the inclusion of three women writers and a female correspondent among the Sierra Leone settlers is a welcome component. The selections, moreover, indicate careful attention to global Realpolitik, strikingly evident in the inclusion of writings by the "Nova Scotian" black community in Sierra Leone.

By including letters, petitions, and allied items penned by the Sierra Leone settlers, the editors draw attention to an important but often neglected aspect of black history: the scheme to relocate the "Black Poor" living in England in the 1780s to Sierra Leone, the small West African colony that resulted, and the addition of a large community sent from Canada, consisting of former American slaves who fought for the British army during the American War of Independence and ended up helping to found the West African colony. Among several letters of Sierra Leone settlers are those of David Edman, Susanna Smith, and that trio of vocal, redoutable warriors--Cato Perkins, Isaac Anderson, and Thomas Peters. Additionally, the farewell petition, a settlers' collective petition, and minutes of the Governor and Council that contains a list of grievances are among the selections.

This tapestry of forms and experiences documents the energy, depth, strength, and connectedness of a global chorus of black writers. The collective voices provide a resounding counterpoint to the prevailing conservative ideologies in that critical liberatory epoch.
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Author:Ferguson, Moira
Publication:African American Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1997
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