Many of us know of the poet Phillis Wheatley, the first black woman to publish a book in the Americas, but many of her contemporaries in America and in England remain obscure. This anthology, compiled by Vincent Carretta, a professor of English at the University of Maryland, goes a long way toward rectifying that omission. Here, Carretta collects the work of nearly 20 black writers from the late 1700s. Some, like Ignatius Sancho, a black Londoner who corresponded with important figures of his day such as the author Laurence Sterne, and Olaudah Equiano, an early black abolitionist who created the slave narrative, are well known. Others, like the poet Francis Williams, or Johnson Green, who served in the Revolutionary Army, and whose confession before his execution in 1786 for burglary is included here, are less so. This is an important collection but, while Carretta provides an introduction and footnotes, one wishes he had provided brief biographies for each of the contributors.
This powerful anthology of black authors in English-speaking 18th century nations provides a narrow but necessary focus, assembling a comprehensive presentation of notables whose writings have reflected the experiences of blacks around the world. Themes of liberation, freedom and personal frustration in the effort abound. -- Midwest Book Review