1. Publications on Black Lives in the Founding Era

Black Writers of the Founding Era

Featuring more than 120 writers, this groundbreaking anthology, edited by James G. Basker and Nicole Seary with a foreword by Annette Gordon-Reed, reveals the astonishing richness and diversity of Black experience in the turbulent decades of the American Revolution. Here are writers both enslaved and free, loyalist and patriot, women and men, Northern and Southern: soldiers, seamen, and veterans; painters, poets, and preachers; cooks, hairdressers, farmers, and many more. Alongside such better-known works as Phillis Wheatley’s poems and Benjamin Banneker’s mathematical and scientific puzzles are dozens of first-person narratives offering a variety of Black perspectives on the political events of the times. These bold and eloquent contributions to public debate about the meanings of the Revolution and the republican values that gave rise to it dramatize the many ways in which protest and activism have always been integral for Black Americans. Intimate diaries and letters, many never before published, tell more private stories, indelibly altering our understanding of the lived experience of this crucial time in our history.

A copy of this book, published by the Library of America, can be purchased at the Gilder Lehrman Book Shop here. We receive an affiliate commission from every purchase made through the link provided. Thank you for supporting our programs!

Slavery and Abolition in the Founding Era: Black and White Voices

One of the challenges faced by teachers seeking to use literary and historical texts in their classes is the apparent dearth of literature about slavery before the mid-1800s. Slavery and Abolition in the Founding Era: Black and White Voices, a new publication from the Gilder Lehrman Institute, brings together long-forgotten writings from this period, including twenty-five texts in different genres by more than nineteen different writers, spanning the forty-five-year period from the 1770s to the end of the War of 1812. The writings show that opposition to slavery was surprisingly widespread. Thirteen of the writers in the volume are Black, and some of their writings are anthologized here for the first time. Six of the writers are White, including prominent members of the founding generation. Every single one of the writers in this collection, Black and White, was vehemently and publicly anti-slavery.

This booklet was offered for free to K–12 educators as part of our February 2020 Affiliate School offer, and is available for sale in the Gilder Lehrman Gift Shop here.

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Past Publications

History Now, Issue No. 60, “Black Lives in the Founding Era” (Summer 2021)

The sixtieth issue of the Gilder Lehrman Institute’s online journal, History Now, is available to subscribers. This landmark issue features sixteen essays by leading historians including Margaret Washington, Lois Horton, Thomas J. Davis, Julie Winch, and James G. Basker. The essays focus on the lives and achievements of African American founders such as Phillis Wheatley, Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, and James Forten, among others. Subscribe to History Now here. Subscriptions are free for members of our free Affiliate School Program.

Poster: James Armistead Lafayette

In spring 2021, the Institute unveiled a new poster featuring James Armistead Lafayette, an enslaved African American who volunteered to serve the Continental Army by spying on the British. He was freed in 1787 for his contributions to the Revolutionary War. The poster was part of a bundle of Founding Era posters that also included Phillis Wheatley and an engraving of the Boston Massacre. These posters were offered for free to teachers in our Affiliate School Program as part of our April 2021 offer. Learn more about the Affiliate School Program.