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A nation within a nation
preview of book A nation within a nation
text of book A nation within a nation

A nation within a nation

Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Publication Date: 2011
Category: General
Grades: Recommended
Number of Pages: 229
Appropriate for: Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; high school students; general readers
Choice rating: 
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About this title

John Ernest offers a comprehensive survey of the broad-ranging and influential African American organizations and networks formed in the North in the late eighteenth century through the end of the Civil War. He examines fraternal organizations, churches, conventions, mutual aid benefit and literary societies, educational organizations, newspapers, and magazines. Ernest argues these organizations demonstrate how African Americans self-definition was not solely determined by slavery as they tried to create organizations in the hope of creating a community.

About author
John Ernest

John Ernest is Eberly Family Distinguished Professor of American Literature at West Virginia University. In addition to several editions of nineteenth-century African American texts, he has published three books, Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and Harper, Liberation Historiography: African American Writers and the Challenge of History, 17941861, and Chaotic Justice: Rethinking African American Literary History.


Ernest, John. A nation within a nation: organizing African-American communities before the Civil War. Ivan R. Dee, 2011. 214p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781566638074; ISBN 9781566639170 e-book. Reviewed in 2011dec CHOICE.

Ernest (American literature, West Virginia Univ.) considers communities created by African Americans who were not enslaved and who could claim at least a nominal portion of freedom available in the US in the 18th century. These African Americans worked hard to create "positive" communities in the face of the racist laws and restrictions of the oppressive US society in which they lived. These communities--cultural institutions, organizations, and so on--were marked by shared cultural practices, community affiliations, and a blending of heritage and experience--all of which derived from establishing a collective identity. The most common and important of these communities was (and remains) the African American church, but Ernest also documents various societies and mutual self-help organizations, including national freemasonry, Odd Fellows, fraternities and sororities, convention movements, women's movements, the African American press, and educational organizations. Including a postscript and notes on sources, this book does not offer anything that cannot be found in other resources; however, those interested in an overview of the genesis and growth of African American organizations will find this book helpful.

Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; high school students; general readers. -- B. Taylor-Thompson, Houston Community College

Copyright 2013 American Library Association


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