Review by Choice Review
Ernest (English, Univ. of New Hampshire) approaches early African American writers of history--some well-known, some obscure--as intellectuals and activists who used historical writing to develop a coherent African American identity between the American Revolution and the Civil War. With chapters dealing in turn with formal histories, autobiographies, orations and conventions, and the black press, Ernest argues that black history writing was explicitly politicized, confrontational, and intended to disrupt white supremacist narratives that denied African peoples' historical agency. Drawing on the model of black liberation theology, Ernest characterizes a "liberation historiography" that fused secular and sacred visions of history in order to gather the scattered fragments of black experience--both ancient and modern--into a coherent, morally grounded, and empowering community self-definition. The prose is at times dense, and the author's focus on textual analysis too often ignores historical context. Still, Ernest raises important questions regarding race, identity, spirituality, and power. Perhaps most importantly, he recognizes these early black historians as intellectuals whose writings must be appreciated for the cultural functions they were intended to serve by confronting white racism, and by constructing black history, community, identity, and activism. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. Kachun Western Michigan University
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