Mapping Region in Early American Writing

Mapping Region is a collection of essays that study how early American writers assessed the spaces around them. The contributors reconsider the various roles regions played in the formation of American communities, both real and imagined. Hollis Robbins and Janet Neary’s “African American Literature of the Gold Rush” looks at accounts of the California Gold Rush in the black press as well as letters from black immigrants to California and Western narratives centered on African American experiences. The authors offer a reassessment of the American West in the landscape of nineteenth-century African American studies, moving away from the primarily southern notion of African Americans as property toward the more active role of African American seeking property rights in the West. Focusing on the writings of James Williams and William H. Newby, this essay considers Gold Rush California as representing new possibilities for black citizens as well as an important testing ground for African American rights.