Emancipatory Cosmology: Freedom’s Journal, The Rights of All, and the Revolutionary Movements of Black Print Culture

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Abstract

This essay examines the slave-state circulations of the first and second African American newspapers in the United States, Freedom’s Journal (1827–29) and The Rights of All (1829). By recuperating the stories of black circulating agents in the South, and reading accounts of their efforts alongside Freedom’s Journal and The Rights of All articles that describe the circulatory movements of printed matter, of history, and of the cosmos, the author suggests that these shortlived periodicals produced an “emancipatory cosmology.” Building on the work of Lloyd Pratt, Britt Rusert, Alexander Weheliye, and others, the author proposes that this emancipatory cosmology offered an alternative to US-style nationhood even as it suggested a nation-like communal black imaginary. In short, the interconnections between text and distribution allowed black writers, readers, and agents to bring into being a mobile, communal network that crossed borders of temporality and geography. The emancipatory cosmology produced by Freedom’s Journal and The Rights of All, moreover, shaped later articulations of black history, literature, and politics, and should in many ways guide our thinking about collectivity and political action today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-286
JournalAmerican Quarterly
Volume68
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2016

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