The following is a guest post by Lavonda Kay Broadnax, a research specialist in the Library of Congress’s Digital Reference Section.
The sesquicentennial of the U.S. Civil War is a wonderful time to celebrate and promote the literature written by African American women who lived during the Civil War. To help researchers explore the legacy of these often-overlooked writers, I had the privilege of creating a web guide for the Library, “Selected Online Works by Civil War Era African American Women,” which compiles over seventy-five works published by or about African American women. The number of books represented on the guide is quite remarkable given that, at this time, it was illegal for the vast majority of African Americans to learn to read or write.
As I conducted research for the guide I discovered that these “Soul Sisters” published a variety of works: biographies, essays, autobiographies, speeches, cookbooks, textbooks, children’s books, biographical collections, poetry, novels, and more. The works by this diverse set of women reflect their challenges, struggles, and triumphs. Their works enable us to view a difficult time in American history from a unique and traditionally unavailable point of view. A few of these ladies are known, but collectively they are, unfortunately, hidden from view. They have, however, earned a place in history by recording the events of their lives themselves. They also created a foundation for the next generation of African American women writers.
One major function of the online guide is to provide discovery and easy access to the original historic works. The compilation is therefore limited to items available online with free and open access. The majority of these works were digitized by the Library of Congress, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Items are also included from other online text repositories, including Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive.
These primary source documents are irreplaceable. They present the opportunity to gain a unique perspective and insight into American literature and history from the experiences and writings of African American women.
As a way to further explore the contributions of these writers, I’ll be offering a free webinar, “Civil War Soul Sisters,” on Thursday, May 22, which will highlight the various circumstances that enabled these ladies to publish their works. I hope that you’ll join me for the opportunity to explore a non-traditional vantage point of the U.S. Civil War era. Further details about the date of the webinar, and how to register for it, follow below.
Title: “Civil War Soul Sisters”
Presenter: Lavonda Kay Broadnax
Date: Thursday, May 22, 2014
Time: 2:00-3:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)
Note: This is an online program.
Sponsor: The Digital Reference Section
Questions? Contact the Digital Reference Section