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Chapter 7 - Black Life Writing in Print Cultures at the Turn into the Twentieth Century

from Part I - Origins and Histories

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 September 2021

Joycelyn Moody
Affiliation:
University of Texas, San Antonio
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Summary

The first decade of the twentieth century introduced new voices into African American autobiography. The memoirs published as monographs enabled no assumptions about scope or content, or about literary aspirations or political agendas. Readers and publishers alike were introduced to a broad array of life writings prompted by many impulses. Booker T. Washington published two different works in 1901. An Autobiography: The Story of My Life and Work ran 455 pages and included 59 black and white images. Up from Slavery, Washington's shorter slave narrative, ran only 330 pages. Inspiring accounts of African American community engagement and collective aspirations, significantly more modest than Washington’s, were published that same year.The early twentieth century turn to the collective biography was a powerful rejection of self-made man mythologies long shaping white American autobiographical conventions. Life writing for and about the masses became a priority for magazine editor Pauline Hopkins and, by extension, for the Colored American Magazine. As her career revealed, Hopkins was dedicated to producing writing — including autobiography — that recuperated families and communities.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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