Black Self-Publishing is an ongoing collaborative research project. It is based on a working list of books that are known to have been or may have been self-published by people of African descent who resided in North America and either were born before 1851 or first published before 1877. Your help, ideas, corrections, insight, and comments are essential to this work of community scholarship. Please consider contributing your knowledge.

The list at the core of this site consists of over 575 books, broadsides, pamphlets, and more by more than 250 black authors that were likely self-published. The American Antiquarian Society holds an excellent collection of works published in early North America by black authors, so the list presented here started with the Society's holdings and the scope has been defined by the chronological limits of AAS's pre-twentieth century collecting policy. However, the list has already been greatly expanded so that more than half of the titles listed here are only held at other institutions (indicated with the tag "Not at AAS"). Further information is available about the methodology used to generate this list and the statistical findings thus far. 

This Site Is...

    • a work-in-progress

    • Nothing written here is intended as a definitive statement. As our knowledge increases the content will change.
    • intended to promote collaborative scholarship

    • It aims to encourage communication between communities of color, librarians/archivists, and scholars.
    • expansive in definition and methodology

    • Selection critera have erred on the side of inclusion to encourage wide-ranging investigation extending beyond narratives of slavery, beyond the limitations of one archive, and beyond just books.

Why Study Black Self-Publishing?

Many nineteenth-century authors were self-published. Rather than going through an established commercial publisher, the author made arrangements with a printer (often the local newspaper office) to print their pamphlet or sermon or work of history. Self-publishing is an interesting phenomenon to study because it removes one layer of mediation between an author and their published work - that of finding a commercial publisher willing to take on the financial risk of all the upfront printing costs. This may have been especially appealing to black authors who faced many racist obstacles limiting their access to print networks. 

The core list of titles presented here is just the beginning. It is a place where scraps of additional publication information can be gathered and examined in relationship with one another. (See for instance the featured item: printing receipts for Rev. Offley's Narrative.) Both the lives of people of color and the practical logistics of publishing are underdocumented in archives. This makes studying black authors' access to print doubly difficult and each piece of evidence is all the more precious. We hope you will help us gather more!