Historian Stephen Hall keenly engages in the nineteenth-century history of the African American intellectual life in his book, “A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America” (Hall, 2009). His work traces the long nineteenth century and how various black American writers induced various themes during different moments, which include, the biblical story, the American slavery paradox, ancient African story and the challenges of the black citizenship in the era of Reconstruction. He uncovers the overabundance of the black historical sources during the nineteenth century in different forms, which include; sermons, literary texts, newspapers and speeches, which each act as an antecedent to the historical writing of the black in the twentieth century. In his work, he reveals the complications of the African American intellectual history.
Halls observes the African American authors, ministers, abolitionists, and intellectuals that had been writing about the Black’s history since and their experience in the 1800s. In his book, Hall reconstructs and recaptures a rich but mainly overlooked tradition of the African American historical writing. He charts the evolution, methods, meanings, maturation, and the origins of the African American writing since early twentieth century. He demonstrates how the works stolen and engaged with intellectual and ideological constructs from conventional intellectual movements, which include; romanticism, modernism, enlightenment and realism. He also explores the formation of discursive spaces, which simultaneously offered and reinforced counter narratives to more typical historical discourse. Halls sheds more light on the African diaspora in the influence on the growth of the historical study. By so doing, he offers an all-inclusive picture of the African American history, which was informed by the developments outside and within the African American community.
Hall systematizes his content chronologically and adheres to three themes. At first, he explores the African American historiography together with its complex interchange and selective appropriation with intellectual paradigms from the larger Western movement. They include Realism, Romanticism, Modernism, and Enlightenment. Secondly, he traces this historiography in lengthy spaces, which simultaneously offered and reinforced counter narratives to the ordinary historical address. Finally, he reflects about the influence brought about by the African diaspora, particularly when it relates to Africa and Haiti, on the African American historical study development.
Chronologically, Hall starts at the finish of the initial republic era where he explains a number of key texts. The most interesting being the rereading of David Walkers context Appeal to the World’s Colored Citizens as both a manifesto and a history text, which makes for the respect that is owed by the black humanity (Hall, 2009). Halls then reflects the colonial period, through post Reconstruction and Liberation. Through his book, Hall maintains that forming the Carter G. Woodson’s Association represented the conclusion of a century-long effort of legitimizing the African American experience instead of marking the beginning of the African American history.
Arguably, the greatest strong point of Faithful Account is his illuminating efforts and consistency in connecting African American historical context to a larger intellectual and ideological hypothesis from the bible, Romanticism, and classicism throughout the first part of the century to objectivity, scientism, and realism by the end of the century. African American writers were only dedicated to defending the race, Hall stresses that it should not be incomprehensible; sophisticate their utilization of intellectual concepts, methodologies and theories from the time they lived. During the early Republic for instance, writers like Oson, Maria Stewart, and Walker invoked both the classical and Biblical authority in order in establishing a historical family whose beginning narrows down to the middle and slave ship passage.
In addition to his intellectual currents, Halls excellently shows the relationship between the broader socio-political tendencies and black historical writing. When slavery reached pitch in the 1850s, writers like William Nell wrote a documented book about the participation of the Black in the Revolutionary War so that the nation would be reminded of the guarantee of citizenship, freedom, and unpaid debts.
Finally, Hall advances from the early studies, which isolated the growth of the historical race due to the rise of history departments and closes his book by exploring the professionalization of the American African Academy and other associations, for instance the establishment of the “Association for the Study of Negro Life and History” (ASNLH), which was founded in 1915. He compares this association with the creation of the “American Historical Association” (AHA), which was founded in 1884 together with the “Mississippi Valley Historical Association” founded in 1907.
The dual aim of Hall throughout the book is tracing the ways in which black intellectuals contributed and negotiated to the construction of a distinctive and expansive historical discourse throughout the nineteenth century, which shows a relationship of the wider work to the larger intellectual current culture. Hall’s historians hold a multilayered vision, for instance by looking at the past and making sense of their present. The book shows that African Americans do not limit their concerns to the traditions, but reflects on making their political claims for the future.
In my opinion, I feel that the book was good because Hall’s context enlightens on the nineteenth century where African American writers engraved out a divergent identity. It enables us to enlarge the frame of the life of a black beyond the Middle passage, general oppression, North American slavery, and Middle passage. Hall’s brings out the African American writers context in his work, which enables readers to understand the nineteenth history better.
Hall, Stephen G. A Faithful Account of the Race: African American Historical Writing in Nineteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Internet resource.