Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition

Penguin Classics. Feb. 2021. 656p. ed. by ed. by Michelle D. Commander & Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. ISBN 9780143136088. pap. $22. HIST
Drawing from the extensive collections at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, this remarkable anthology edited by Commander (associate director and curator, Lapidus Ctr. for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg) collects narratives, from firsthand accounts to published speeches to court proceedings, of Black people becoming the agents of their own lives and liberation in the 19th century. An engaging foreword by Schomburg director Kevin Young is followed by an insightful introduction by Commander, in which she provides context on antislavery movements across the Atlantic world. Moving beyond prominent figures such as Frederick Douglass, this book stands out by bringing awareness to lesser-known American abolitionists, including Sarah Mapps Douglass, Maria W. Stewart, and Lucy Stanton, through the inclusion of their widely-circulated speeches. Also featured are powerful recollections of slavery from Bethany Veney and Henry Clay Bruce, among others, as well as harrowing accounts of escaping slavery from Ellen and William Craft, and more.
VERDICT As a whole, this collection showcases the vastness of Black thinking and writing, and nicely complements works by Martha S. Jones and Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers. Complete with a list of suggestions for further reading, this winning anthology is a must for all interested in Black history, but unsure where to start.
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