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This chapter argues the writings published by Blacks in the early national US must be understood in relation to the history of slavery in the British Empire. The author examines diverse forms of African American literature, which were focused on transatlantic concerns, such as “Orations on the Abolition of the Slave Trade” (1808–1823), given annually on January 1. These texts tell powerful stories of the history of the slave trade, and particularly its violence to familial ties, from the trade’s inception in the fifteenth century until its abolition in 1808. Written by free Black churchmen and intellectuals in New York and Philadelphia, including Absalom Jones, Peter Williams, Jr., Russell Parrot, and William Hamilton, these orations demonstrate a deep interest in the actions of the British Parliament and the state of slavery in the West Indies. This chapter also considers direct allusions to British and Afro-British abolitionists and their writings, from Clarkson and Wilberforce to Equiano, in the work of William Miller, Russell Parrot, William Whipper, David Walker, Maria Stewart, and others. The chapter concludes with a discussion of The History of Mary Prince (1831), the most important slave narrative to emerge from the British colonies and questions the inclusion of Prince’s narrative in a history of African American literature.
This chapter considers the transatlantic influences that shaped Irish literary culture in the romantic period. In particular, it focuses on two understudied phenomena. First, the chapter provides an account of texts published in Ireland that concern African slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, written by pro-slavery sympathisers, white abolitionists, and writers of African descent like Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano. Second, it zeroes in on a forgotten Irish novel, Sarah Isdell’s The Vale of Louisiana, published in Dublin in 1805, which dramatises the transatlantic, trans-Caribbean travels of an English family, addresses slavery directly, and borrows heavily from a canonical early American novel, Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland (1798). The chapter concludes on the other side of the ‘steep Atlantic’, as Sydney Owenson called it, and briefly addresses the publication and reception of Irish writers in the early United States, especially Thomas Moore and Maria Edgeworth, where they found an unpredictable and productive future.