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The Collected Essays of Josephine J. Turpin Washington

A Black Reformer in the Post-Reconstruction South
Josephine Turpin Washington. Edited by Rita B. Dandridge
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Newspaper journalist, teacher, and social reformer, Josephine J. Turpin Washington led a life of intense engagement with the issues facing African American society in the post-Reconstruction era. This volume recovers numerous essays, many of them unavailable to the general public until now, and reveals the major contributions to the emerging black press made by this Virginia-born, Howard University-educated woman who clerked for Frederick Douglass and went on to become a writer with an important and unique voice.

Written between 1880 and 1918, the work collected here is significant in the ways it disrupts the nineteenth-century African American literary canon, which has traditionally prioritized slave narratives. It paves the way for the treatment of race and gender in later nineteenth-century African American novels, and engages Biblical scriptures and European and American literatures to support racial uplift ideology. It also articulates shrewdly the aesthetic needs and responsibilities necessary for the black press to establish a reputable literary sphere.

Part of a vibrant movement in recent scholarship to reclaim writings of nineteenth-century African American women writers, this expertly edited and annotated collection represents not only a valuable scholarly resource but a powerful example of the determination of a southern black woman to inspire others to improve their own lives and those of all African Americans.

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