Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 March 2021
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.