Black Well-Being
Health and Selfhood in Antebellum Black Literature

Andrea Stone

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Canadian Association for American Studies Robert K. Martin Book Prize
“A valuable resource. . . . Stone gives space to both fugitive and free black writers, canonical and obscure, essay and narrative, in an effort to revisit the terms of the canon and the boundaries of the black literary as it is understood for the Antebellum period”—American Literature
“Does an excellent job at examining how black writers and orators—as well as white legal scholars and slaveholders—attempted to define black selfhood. . . . Everyone should read this book when trying to understand how today’s society has come to view black bodies and black well-being, especially in light of the Tuskegee experiment; Henrietta Lacks; and other immoral, illegal, and extralegal uses of black bodies for the benefit of white people.”—The Journal of African American History  
“Presents a wealth of literature—from pamphlets to ‘scientific’ findings to novels and short stories, all of which provides insight into antebellum sentiments regarding black selfhood.”—The Griot
"An innovative interpretation of antebellum black literature as well as a timely contribution to the growing body of scholarship on health and the black body in slavery and freedom."—Erica L. Ball, author of To Live an Antislavery Life: Personal Politics and the Antebellum Black Middle Class

"Engages productively with discourses of identity and subjectivity, the human and post-human, nationalism and citizenship, and law and medicine in a 'transcolonial' framework that includes the United States, the Caribbean, and Canada."—Gwen Bergner, author of Taboo Subjects: Race, Sex, and Psychoanalysis

Analyzing slave narratives, emigration polemics, a murder trial, and black-authored fiction, Andrea Stone highlights the central role physical and mental health and well-being played in antebellum black literary constructions of selfhood. At a time when political and medical theorists emphasized black well-being in their arguments for or against slavery, African American men and women developed their own theories about what it means to be healthy and well in contexts of injury, illness, sexual abuse, disease, and disability.

Such portrayals of the healthy black self in early black print culture created a nineteenth-century politics of well-being that spanned continents. Even in conditions of painful labor, severely limited resources, and physical and mental brutality, these writers counter stereotypes and circumstances by representing and claiming the totality of bodily existence.

Andrea Stone is associate professor of English language and literature at Smith College.
Publication of the paperback edition made possible by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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Robert K. Martin Prize for Best Book - 2016

Presents a wealth of literature—from pamphlets to “scientific” findings to novels and short stories, all of which provides insight into antebellum sentiments regarding black selfhood.

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