You are here

Barbaric Culture and Black Critique

Black Antislavery Writers, Religion, and the Slaveholding Atlantic
Stefan M. Wheelock

BUY Cloth · 232 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813937984 · $69.50 · Dec 2015
BUY Paper · 232 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813937991 · $29.50 · Dec 2015
BUY Ebook · 232 pp. · ISBN 9780813938257 · $29.50 · Dec 2015

In an interdisciplinary study of black intellectual history at the dawn of the nineteenth century, Stefan M. Wheelock shows how black antislavery writers were able to counteract ideologies of white supremacy while fostering a sense of racial community and identity. The major figures he discusses—Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, David Walker, and Maria Stewart—engaged the concepts of democracy, freedom, and equality as these ideas ripened within the context of racial terror and colonial hegemony. Wheelock highlights the ways in which religious and secular versions of collective political destiny both competed and cooperated to forge a vision for a more perfect and just society. By appealing to religious sensibilities and calling for emancipation, these writers addressed slavery and its cultural bearing on the Atlantic in varied, complex, and sometimes contradictory ways during a key period in the development of Western political identity and modernity.


In Stefan M. Wheelock’s strikingly insightful study, the profound roots of modern black intellectual history rise through the fractured instabilities of white discourses of civilization, philosophy, and progress. This is an important study of how black writing works and why we need to place it at the center of historical research.

John Richard Ernest, University of Delaware, author of A Nation within a Nation: Organizing African-American Communities before the Civil War

In terms of professional scholarship, Wheelock’s work is a breath of fresh air because it refuses to abide by any racial color line. This is not a book of only black writers. It is one where the works of Cugoano, Equiano, Walker, and Stewart are set in dynamic tension and conversation with white writers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx, Granville Sharp, Jonathan Edwards, and Thomas Jefferson.

Christian Century

Barbaric Culture and Black Critique is an important intervention in the fields of Atlantic studies and antislavery history, which Wheelock argues have largely neglected the contributions of early black writers; the book does reveal the unique contributions to and disruption of white antislavery discourse in an engaging anddirect style. Beyond this, Wheelock’s work offers another perspective on the history of African American religious rhetoric as it was deployed in discretely political spaces.

American Literature

[I]n Barbaric Culture and, Black Critique, Stefan Wheelock uses theory and literary analysis to focus on a number of key works in black antislavery literature. Wheelock begins chronologically where Carron ends, with the entrance of black Christians into the public sphere via antislavery publications. His analysis insightfully unpacks why it martered that Catron's subjects embraced black Protestantism: religion offered a methodological base and heft that could forcefully take on slavery at its root.

Anglican and Episcopal History

About the Author(s): 

Stefan M. Wheelock is Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University.

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books