In Search of Hannah Crafts

In 2001, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. discovered an unpublished manuscript, The Bondwoman’s Narrative, By Hannah Crafts, A Fugitive Recently Escaped From North Carolina, which turned out to be the first novel by a female African-American slave ever found, and possibly the first novel written by a black women anywhere. The Bondwoman’s Narrative was published in 2002. In Search of Hannah Crafts, co-edited with Hollis Robbins, brings together 22 authorities on African-American studies to examine such issues as authenticity, and the history and criticism of this unique novel, including Nina Baym, William Andrews, Lawrence Buell, and Karen Sanchez-Eppler. Important contributions include Hollis Robbins, who details and theorizes Crafts’s borrowings from Charles Dickens’s Bleak House; Anne Fabian, who argues that Crafts breaks the rules that governed texts previously written and published by slaves; Jean Fagan Yellin, who examines the influence of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin on Crafts; Shelley Fisher Fishkin, who examines the influence of William Wells Brown’s well-known play The Escape, or, A Leap for Freedom, casting light on Crafts’s class and race consciousness; and William Gleason, who argues that The Bondwoman’s Narrative is deeply invested in the politics of architectural form and reveals a sophisticated sense of the relationship between race and architecture.