Anthony Burns, fugitive from slavery

Antislavery Literature Project

The goal of the Antislavery Literature Project is to increase public access to a body of literature crucial to understanding African American experience, US and hemispheric histories of slavery, and early human rights philosophies. Our multilingual collections contribute to an educational consciousness of the role of antislavery writers in creating contemporary concepts of freedom.

Antislavery literature represents the origins of multicultural literature in the United States. It is the first body of American literature produced by writers of diverse racial origins. It encompasses slave narratives, lectures, travel accounts, political tracts, prose fiction, poetry, drama, religious and philosophical literature, compendia, journals, manifestos, and children’s literature. There is a complex and contradictory range of voices, from journalistic reportage to sentimental poetry, from racial paternalism and stereotyping to advocacy of interracial equality, from religious disputation to militant antislavery calls. In its whole, this literature is inseparable from an understanding of democratic development in US society.

The Antislavery Literature Project engages in public scholarship by providing educational access to the literature and history of the antislavery movement in the United States. We encourage public use of and participatory contributions to literary and historical scholarship of slavery. We believe that public scholarship, where the academy and community meet to create and use cultural knowledge together, is an expression of engaged citizenship.

To accomplish this work, our project does historical research; production of electronic editions; and delivers annotated texts via the Internet. We make a select corpus of annotated antislavery literature available for free for educational purposes. To avoid redundant effort, our site links to the work of humanities projects that have created publicly-available and not-for-profit digital editions of antislavery literature.

As large amounts of earlier American texts became available online via Google Books and other sources, the Project shifted away from its earlier large-scale digitization work.  In recent years our efforts have emphasized cross-cultural readings and translations.  We seek to locate the North American literature of slavery and emancipation within a global literature concerned with freedom.  We are currently producing translations of North American slave narratives into Chinese, along with writing cross-cultural teaching guides, to be published by Shanghai Jiaotong University Press in cooperation with Dr. Shi Penglu at Xi’an Jiaotong University.

The Project is based at the English Department of Arizona State University. From 2003-2018, the Project was located at the EServer at Iowa State University’s English Department.

We receive assistance from a diverse group of affiliates who support its scholarly and educational objectives.  In 2008 the National Endowment for the Humanities recognized the Project as “one of the best digital humanities projects” in a peer-reviewed national competition.

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