Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Century
Erika DeSimone and Fidel Louis
Voices Beyond Bondage: An Anthology of Verse by African Americans of the 19th Centuryis a collection of 150 poems culled from burgeoning black-owned newspapers of the era, and offers a fresh perspective on African-American life and identity. These poems are penned mostly by everyday people compelled to verse—despite being born into a world of fundamental inequity. Whether these authors were formally schooled or self-taught, whether they were slaves, free peoples, or the descendants of slaves, African Americans put ink to paper and declared their passions in verse. Black-owned newspapers provided a primary outlet through which African Americans could empower their voice. Almost every African-American periodical reserved a column for poetry; droves of readers submitted original poems. Until now, these poems—and an entire literary movement—were lost to modern readers.
Erika DeSimone earned her undergraduate degree from Westfield State University. She is currently an editorial assistant at the Modern Language Association, where she has worked for more than a decade. Fidel Louis earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New York University. He is currently a business consultant for both private-sector and government projects.
The Boston Athenæum presents this event in honor of African-American History Month. Discover the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, the first Black poet in America to publish a book, in the Athenæum’s circulating and special collections.
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