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Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr; this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry and essays on feminism, education and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women's suffrage, temperance and civil rights, but the thematic centre is black women's Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr; this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry and essays on feminism, education and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women's suffrage, temperance and civil rights, but the thematic centre is black women's intellect and personal ambition. The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in a world-famous singing group. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of black women writers be read, remembered and addressed.


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Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr; this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry and essays on feminism, education and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women's suffrage, temperance and civil rights, but the thematic centre is black women's Edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr; this collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry and essays on feminism, education and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women's suffrage, temperance and civil rights, but the thematic centre is black women's intellect and personal ambition. The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in a world-famous singing group. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of black women writers be read, remembered and addressed.

30 review for The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: I loved far more of these pieces than in most collections, I loved learning from them, and I found some of them disturbingly timely. I don't read many older books and the ones I'm aware of are pretty exclusively classics by dead, white men. Many of the classics I've not read are those that don't appeal to me and I don't see much value in reading more books by white men just because they're classics. They've already been such a large part of my education. On the other hand, I was thrilled Summary: I loved far more of these pieces than in most collections, I loved learning from them, and I found some of them disturbingly timely. I don't read many older books and the ones I'm aware of are pretty exclusively classics by dead, white men. Many of the classics I've not read are those that don't appeal to me and I don't see much value in reading more books by white men just because they're classics. They've already been such a large part of my education. On the other hand, I was thrilled to see this collection of older essays, poems, speeches, and novel excerpts by African American women, because perspectives on this time by these people are entirely missing from my previous reading. I found it incredibly valuable and enjoyable to learn about the experiences of African American women immediately before and after emancipation. One critique that could be made about this collection and my choice to pick it up is that it was based purely on the identity of the authors. Does this, some may ask, mean that quality was not a criteria? The first thing I'd like to do is to assure you that is not the case. One or two longer, printed speeches weren't as gripping and one of the fiction pieces didn't appeal to me. However, these are women who were incredibly well-regarded in their time and it's clear why. There were far more sentences I wanted to underline for their beauty or insight than in almost anything else I've read. I typically avoid collections that include multiple authors because they're so hit or miss for me, but out of dozens of pieces, only a handful of these didn't engage and impress me. Another reason to pick this up is because the issues of race and gender are, unfortunately, ones we're still grappling with today. This made it a bit heartbreaking to read the more optimistic essays by authors who believed simply striving to become more accomplished and educated would win over all those who discriminated against them. It also meant that many essays in this collection still felt timely. Discussions of chain-gangs echo current discourse about 'the new Jim Crow'. Essays about the relationships between men and women critiqued the 'boys will be boys' double standard that is still so pervasive today. Every single essay provided valuable information from a too often forgotten perspective about US history and how we got to where we are today. There were a few essays that really showed their age. Even women in the nineteenth century were not always free of sexist beliefs about women's natural roles. Racism, particularly against Native Americans, was not uncommon. Religious themes throughout were obviously not problematic the way past prejudices were, but they did jump out me as something you would see less of today. None of the religious essays felt like they were preaching at me though, so even as someone who is not religious, I found the religious themes historically interesting without being alienating. This collection contained many varied forms of writing and was such a fantastic learning experience, I'd recommend it to anyone. However, given the time period of the pieces, I expect this would most appeal to people who enjoy the classics. Each of these essays had the same feel as the classics I've read previously and this book has more than earned its place in the Penguin Classics collection.  This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  2. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alicea

    If you're looking for a book that you can dip in and out of over the course of several days (or weeks if you're me) then I recommend you check out The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers. Organized by theme, this book features many writers of different genres. There are poets, essayists, lecturers, novelists, ministers, and teachers to name just a few. The common theme (besides their gender and race) is that they are advocates for equality of the races and sexes. I found t If you're looking for a book that you can dip in and out of over the course of several days (or weeks if you're me) then I recommend you check out The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers. Organized by theme, this book features many writers of different genres. There are poets, essayists, lecturers, novelists, ministers, and teachers to name just a few. The common theme (besides their gender and race) is that they are advocates for equality of the races and sexes. I found that this book was an excellent conversation starter especially if you want to talk about tough topics like economic and social equality coupled with the history of the Americas. It's also an excellent way to discover writers that you may have never heard of as many of them are quite niche. As you might surmise, the topics covered in this collection are quite deep and therefore as a whole it's an emotionally and mentally exhausting enterprise. It's well worth the effort though. It's astonishing to me just how many of these women I had never heard of but when they were originally writing their voices were strong, no-holds-barred, and topical (most are relevant even today). The truths spoken are hard to accept because the topics are still so ingrained and fresh in the memory of our country. It's another reminder that we should continually be expanding our minds and looking beyond what we already 'know'. Embrace learning about new things! 9/10 and only lost that point because by 1/2 way through I was having to hype myself up to pick it back up again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    African American women writers of the 19th century were running schools, publishing newspapers and authoring editorials, writing poetry and plays, penning all manners of memoirs and stories and novels and cookbooks, delivering lectures and sermons, and doing activist work of all kinds. This book did not lack in quality writing that still reads as engaging (and often enraging) today. What impressed me most about this collection was the range of voices, concerns, and approaches depicted. I sometime African American women writers of the 19th century were running schools, publishing newspapers and authoring editorials, writing poetry and plays, penning all manners of memoirs and stories and novels and cookbooks, delivering lectures and sermons, and doing activist work of all kinds. This book did not lack in quality writing that still reads as engaging (and often enraging) today. What impressed me most about this collection was the range of voices, concerns, and approaches depicted. I sometimes wished for a little more biographical information or context in the editorial introductions (for example, I wanted to immediately know about the performances of Pauline Hopkins' musical!), I understood why they were so brief, and yes, I'm capable of searching the Internet for more information myself. I just would have loved more and more info, really. The selections in this anthology offer not only insight into what these generations of women saw as their battlefields and as their strategies and tactics, and not only insight into their creative, intellectual, and political lives, but also show the vibrant communities of African American women who wrote for each other and to each other. The collection has a fitting end in Lucy Wilmot Smith's 1889 essay, "Women as Journalists: Portraits and Sketches of a Few of the Women Journalists of the Race."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rhea

    Note: I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was very surprised and really pleased by the accessibility of this book. It's fairly thick, true, but the text size is manageable, and the excerpts have a stronger emphasis on non-fiction and activist speeches than I anticipated. And that's a great thing. To be honest, I didn't really know of the wide reach of the movement by 19th century black women to agitate for equality. This really puts into context black women's role in the long, long struggle for Note: I won this in a Goodreads Giveaway. I was very surprised and really pleased by the accessibility of this book. It's fairly thick, true, but the text size is manageable, and the excerpts have a stronger emphasis on non-fiction and activist speeches than I anticipated. And that's a great thing. To be honest, I didn't really know of the wide reach of the movement by 19th century black women to agitate for equality. This really puts into context black women's role in the long, long struggle for civil rights, and it's fascinating. I was also very surprised to discover that Elizabeth Beckley, Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker, had written about her experiences with the former first lady. I really enjoyed Sojourner Truth as well: "May I say a few words? I want to say a few words about this matter. I am a woman’s rights. I have as much muscle as any man, and can do as much work as any man. I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that? I have heard much about the sexes being equal; I can carry as much as any man, and can eat as much too, if I can get it. I am strong as any man that is now. As for intellect, all I can say is, if woman have a pint and man a quart—why cant she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much—for we won’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seem to be all in confusion and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble. I cant read, but I can hear. I have heard the Bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again." Genius.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Breana

    Moving on, my second read was this collection edited by Hollis Robins and Henry Louise Gates Jr.. The basics: This book includes everything from poetry to fiction, essays, speeches, and personal accounts, among other things. It's a thought provoking and poignant collection that's an essential must read that also inspires further reading. It's history. And it dealt with accounts of slavery, discrimination after the Civil War, and hope and empowerment through religion and education from the viewpo Moving on, my second read was this collection edited by Hollis Robins and Henry Louise Gates Jr.. The basics: This book includes everything from poetry to fiction, essays, speeches, and personal accounts, among other things. It's a thought provoking and poignant collection that's an essential must read that also inspires further reading. It's history. And it dealt with accounts of slavery, discrimination after the Civil War, and hope and empowerment through religion and education from the viewpoint of African American women. There was work by writers such as Mary Prince, Pauline Hopkins, Julia Collins, and many others. I also enjoyed the fiction and poetry included in this book like the excerpt from Sarah E. Farro’s 1891 novel, True Love, and Mary E. Ash Lee’s poem, Afmerica (1885). As for the the poetry featured in this book, it's best described as intense. These poems often dealt with subjects that directly correlated with African American Women of the time, and acutely reflected their worries, observations, and hope for a better future—subjects that were reflected throughout the entire collection. As such, The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers was one of my favorite reads from January. Review First Posted Here

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sandie

    In this extensive anthology edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Penguin Classics has collected some of the most extensive writings of African American women writers around the time of the Civil War. This is a huge achievement as these authors have been often ignored and lost in time. This new collection brings them together and makes their voice heard so that modern readers can experience some of the things that made up their lives. There are poems, speeches, excerpts from novels In this extensive anthology edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Penguin Classics has collected some of the most extensive writings of African American women writers around the time of the Civil War. This is a huge achievement as these authors have been often ignored and lost in time. This new collection brings them together and makes their voice heard so that modern readers can experience some of the things that made up their lives. There are poems, speeches, excerpts from novels and letters to the editor and opinion pieces. They speak of the daily injustices these women experienced. Banned from learning while slaves, they were then mocked for ignorance. Their families torn asunder by cruel owners that broke the family ties by selling some member many miles away and raped by owners who regarded sex as another perk of ownership, they are then reviled for promiscuity and lack of family feeling. Yet there is so much hope in these writings. Hope as they document the achievements of those of their race. Hope that they can band together and help others be educated and break out of the mire of poverty. Hope that one day they will be recognized for their worth as individuals not just as oddities who have managed to rise above their circumstances. Hollis Robbins is the Director of the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University and Chair of the Humanities Department at the Peabody Institute. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and founding director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Together they have collected and made available the work of writers such as Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts/Bond, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Edmonia Goodelle Highgate, Julia Collins, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Fanny M. Jackson Coppin. It is an important and eye-opening work that shows the range of interests and causes that inspired these women. This book is recommended for history and feminist readers.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    A must read!!! To read the words of 19th century Black women and think about our current social and political context was certainly a good way to cope with the daily news. The collection includes poetry, essays, and articles. While the words of the women were inspiring, the background sketches of these women are also enlightening.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Madalene

    This is actually a pretty well curated collection. While there are sections specifically laying out speeches, memoirs, fiction, and other topic areas; a stand out is the essays on incarceration inequalities, which read like they could have been written today. Check out the writings by Mary Church Terrell in particular.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Therese Wiese

    Wow - pretty fascinating and sad to see that so many of the issues covered in this book are still on point today. Some of the authors I was familiar with, most I was not. Took me a little longer to read than I expected - some of the stories were just so powerful, I had to set it down and let my thoughts gel. Thank you to the Publisher for a copy of this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is an interesting collection of essays, speeches, poems, and excerpts of longer works. It is amazing and sad how timely much of the subject matter discussed within still is. Many of these pieces could have been written today.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jacqueline Hardman

    An important book for women of colour who write today.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Cunningham

    Totally comprehensive encyclopedia of writers. Very well done.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kelley Rivers

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cierra

  17. 5 out of 5

    toria (vikz writes)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carly Horobin

  19. 5 out of 5

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  20. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Overby

  21. 4 out of 5

    Keya

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ecstaci

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alisha Carmichael

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ana Paula

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  27. 5 out of 5

    Gwen - Chew & Digest Books -

  28. 5 out of 5

    Amy D

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dinelle

  30. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

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