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The material conditions of the years between 1800 and 1830 rendered Black authors and much of African American literature “out of bounds.” Contributors engage literature by people of African descent outside of slavery’s fetters, or Black cultural producers creating work deemed untoward, or literatures developed outside the covers of bound books. In this period, the idea of Black literature was plagued not only by prohibitions on literacy and circumscription on Black people’s mobility, but also by ambivalence about what in fact would have been acceptable public discourse for people of African descent. This volume explores African American literature that elided the suppression of African American thought by directly confronting the urgencies of the moment, especially themes related to the pursuit and the experience of freedom. Transitions in the social, political, and cultural conditions of the decades in question show themselves in literary production at the turn of the nineteenth century. This volume focuses on transitions in organizational life (section 1), in mobility (section 2), in print circulation (section 3), and in visual culture (section 4).
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