The Slave Trade in British and American Literature Criticism: Depictions By Former Slaves - Essay

Bernard W. Bell (essay date 1977)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “African-American Writers,” in American Literature 1764-1789: The Revolutionary Years, edited by Everett Emerson, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1977, pp. 171-93.

[In the following essay, Bell discusses the careers of ex-slaves Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, and Olaudah Equiano, which he claims demonstrate how a hostile white literate society fostered the “twoness” of early black identity in the United States.]

Because of the distinctive history and acculturation of Africans in the English colonies during the revolutionary period, their literary gifts are most meaningfully assessed when viewed in the context of the tension between...

(The entire section is 10092 words.)

Wilfred D. Samuels (essay date 1985)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “Disguised Voice in The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African,” in Black American Literature Forum, Vol. 19, No. 2, Summer 1985, pp. 64-9.

[In the following essay, Samuels contends that Olaudah Equiano's intention in his Narrative, which is to point out the miseries of the slave trade, is enhanced by the use of a disguised voice, through which the author takes control of his audience and holds their attention, outwitting and flattering his white readers while simultaneously revealing that they are unscrupulous and uncaring.]


The author of the slave narrative confronted the...

(The entire section is 6108 words.)

Keith A. Sandiford (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The Black Presence,” in Measuring the Moment: Strategies of Protest in Eighteenth-Century Afro-English Writing, Associated University Presses, 1988, pp. 17-42.

[In the following excerpt, Sandiford examines the social and cultural situation of blacks in England before 1800 and discusses the lives and works of prominent black writers and intellectuals—including Ignatio Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, and Job Ben Solomon—whose works would spur literary reactions and philosophical debates about blacks and the institution of slavery.]

Ignatius Sancho, Ottobah Cugoano, and Olaudah Equiano were undoubtedly the three best-known...

(The entire section is 13991 words.)

Jesús Benito and Ana Manzanas (essay date 1999)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: “The (De)Construction of the ‘Other’ in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,” in Black Imagination and the Middle Passage, edited by Maria Diedrich, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Carl Pedersen, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 47-56.

[In the following essay, Benito and Manzanas examine the concept of the “other” in Olaudah Equiano's Narrative, pointing out that Equiano viewed the white man as the “other” against whom he struggled, while at the same time he sought to adopt white culture. According to the critics, this “crisscrossing of identities” creates an “uneasy balance in the authorial voice” of the work.]


(The entire section is 4444 words.)