Freedom Narratives of African American Women

A Study of 19th Century Writings


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About the Book

Stories of liberation from enslavement or oppression have become central to African American women’s literature. Beginning with a discussion of black women freedom narratives as a literary genre, the author argues that these texts represent a discourse on civil rights that emerged earlier than the ideas of racial uplift that culminated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An examination of the collective free identity of black women and their relationships to the community focuses on education, individual progress, marriage and family, labor, intellectual commitments and community rebuilding projects.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Janaka Bowman Lewis is an associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has published on Elizabeth Keckley and other African American women writers of the nineteenth century.

Bibliographic Details

Janaka Bowman Lewis

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 182
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6778-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3036-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction: Black Women and the Materiality of Freedom 3
One. Women Writing Black: Literary Glimpses into African American History 21
Two. Moving Free: Black Women’s Bodies and Freedom 35
Three. Elizabeth Keckley and Freedom’s Labor 65
Four. “Fiction”ing Freedom: Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Novelistic Tradition 105
Five. Reflections on Freedom, or Freedom Retold 119
Epilogue: Freedom’s Promise: Coming of Age Narratives in African America 141
Chapter Notes 159
Bibliography 168
Index 173

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Choice Outstanding Academic Title
  • “In this compelling book, Lewis explores freedom narratives written by African American women from 1861 to the 1890s…. Crucially contributing to feminist recovery work and scholarship in African American studies, Freedom Narratives of African American Women is required reading for those interested in 19th-century America…. essential”—Choice