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Until fairly recently, critical studies and anthologies of African American literature generally began with the 1830s and 1840s. Yet there was an active and lively transatlantic black literary tradition as early as the 1760s. Genius in Bondage situates this literature in its own historical terms, rather than treating it as a sort of prologue to later African American writings. The contributors address the shifting meanings of race and gender during this period, explore how black identity was cultivated within a capitalist economy, discuss the impact of Christian religion and the Enlightenment on definitions of freedom and liberty, and identify ways in which black literature both engaged with and rebelled against Anglo-American culture.

"This is an excellent, indeed a monumental collection of essays, one that will set the standard for scholarship in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Black Atlantic studies for years to come."—Adam Potkay

"A reminder that literature is a complex language because, regardless of condition, circumstance, class, or colour, people are endowed with genuine feelings and complicated thoughts that make up the human experience."—Dalhousie Review

"By introducing new texts and offering new perspectives on early Black writers, Genius in Bondage confirms the vigor of early Black Atlantic studies and the genius of the literature it represents."—Early American Literature

"Moves us back in time and significantly beyond the constraints of analysis rooted in the search for the origins of a unique African American literary tradition. Students will ignore eighteenth-century black autobiography at their peril."—Journal of American History

"This superb collection on the range of early black literary activity constitutes cutting-edge scholarship. . . . A work of enormous significance."—Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodala

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Transatlantic literature, Transatlantic history, Slavery, Black literature


Literature in English, British Isles

Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic
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