Black Lives in the Founding Era, Led by James G. Basker, Barnard College

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In this course, Professor James Basker and a number of guest speakers restore to view the lives and writings of a wide array of African Americans in the period 1760 to 1800. Drawing on rare and long-forgotten texts, we will focus on prominent individuals such as Phillis Wheatley, Benjamin Banneker, Jupiter Hammon, Absalom Jones, Richard Allen, Prince Hall, and James Forten, along with others who lived more ordinary lives—Black soldiers, formerly enslaved people petitioning the government, women both enslaved and free, religious and civic leaders, and writers of early slave narratives.


• Nine lectures 
• Primary source readings to complement the lectures
• A certificate of completion for 15 hours of professional development credit

Readings: The suggested readings for each seminar session will be listed on the “Resources” tab on the course site. Please note that you are not required to read or purchase any print materials. The quiz will be based on the content of the seminar recordings rather than the readings.

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Dr. James G. Basker

James G. Basker is the Richard Gilder Professor of Literary History at Barnard College, Columbia University. He was educated at Harvard and Cambridge and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. He has published several books, including Amazing Grace: An Anthology of Poems about Slavery, 1660–1810 (Yale University Press, 2002) Early American Abolitionists: A Collection of Anti-Slavery Writings, 1760–1820 (Gilder Lehrman Institute, 2005), and American Antislavery Writings: Colonial Beginnings to Emancipation (Library of America, 2012). His new anthology, Black Writers in the Founding Era, 1760–1800, is forthcoming from the Library of America in September 2022.