In this revelatory hybrid of history and textual analysis, Hager argues that the act of writing--often in defiance of states' antiliteracy laws--was an exceedingly potent form of self-empowerment for these oppressed men and women, never mind their poor spelling and unorthodox methods. . . . This thoughtful examination of the artifacts of a too-long-silenced population is made all the more eloquent by accompanying facsimiles of the arduously penned missives.
A penetrating and revealing portrait of people in the process of defining freedom, Word by Word
is a stirring, important work that reshapes our understanding of slavery and emancipation. (Louis P. Masur, Author Of lincoln's Hundred Days: The Emancipation Proclamation And The War For The Union
Hager brilliantly imagines scenes of writing among freed people in the decades immediately following emancipation, showing how former slaves turned to writing as a way of taking control of their world. Word by Word
is a major and revelatory act of historical recovery done with imaginative sympathy and critical verve. (Robert S. Levine, Author Of dislocating Race And Nation: Episodes In Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism
From its first pages, where a stumbling black writer in Civil War New Orleans picks up the U.S. Constitution, Word by Word
focuses on the initial tremors of freedom for ordinary people amid wartime turmoil and the process of emancipation. This is original work of the highest order. (Kathleen Diffley, Editor Of to Live And Die: Collected Stories Of The Civil War, 1861-1876
[An] always engaging account of how the path to freedom was paved, in part, with written words. (Kirkus Reviews