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Chapter 5 - Robert Roberts’s The House Servant’s Directory and the Performance of Stability in African American Print, 1800–1830

from Part II - Movement and Mobility in African American Literature

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 March 2021

Jasmine Nichole Cobb
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

This chapter explores issues of black mobility by considering the circulation of Robert Roberts’s 1827 book, The House Servant’s Directory: or, A Monitor for Private Families. The House Servant’s Directory holds an important place in book history as one of the earliest known commercially produced books written by a formerly enslaved African American man. Initially, the book received printings in both New York and Boston and was popular enough to warrant two subsequent editions. However, the popular circulation of The House Servant’s Directory exceeded the “circulation” of its indentured author, as his mobility was limited by restrictions on people of African descent. And while the story of David Walker’s broad circulation of his 1829 Appeal fits well into narratives about Black mobility and fugitivity, the early African American print sphere is more often marked by less successful efforts at circulation.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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