Black Print Unbound explores the development of the Christian Recorder during and just after the American Civil War. As a study of the official African Methodist Episcopal Church newspaper (a periodical of national reach and scope among free African Americans), Black Print Unbound is thus at once a massive recovery effort of a publication by African Americans for African Americans, a consideration of the nexus of African Americanist inquiry and print culture studies, and an intervention in the study of literatures of the Civil War, faith communities, and periodicals. The book pairs a longitudinal sense of the Recorder's ideological, political, and aesthetic development with the fullest account available of how the physical paper moved from composition to real, traceable subscribers. It builds from this cultural and material history to recover and analyze diverse and often unknown texts published in the Recorder including letters, poems, and a serialized novel-texts that were crucial to the development of African American literature and culture and that challenge our senses of genre, authorship, and community.
In this, Black Print Unbound offers a case study for understanding how African Americans inserted themselves in an often-hostile American print culture in the midst of the most complex conflict the young nation had yet seen, and it thus calls for a significant rewriting of our senses of African American-and so American-literary history.