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Becoming African in AmericaRace and Nation in the Early Black Atlantic, 1760-1830$
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James Sidbury

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195320107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320107.001.0001

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The First “Africans”

The First “Africans”

Africa and Africans in the Poetry of Phillis Wheatley and the Letters of Ignatius Sancho

(p.17) 1 The First “Africans”
Becoming African in America

James Sidbury (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how Wheatley and Sancho, having been labeled “African” writers, accepted that label and subtly altered what it meant to be “African” by what they wrote. Neither Africa nor African identity plays a central role in their texts, but the identity is present and acknowledged. Both were aware of ethnic diversity on the continent and understood that it undercut any notion of an indigenous “African” identity. Both responded by creating a narrative of African identity that took its meaning from the diaspora rather than from conditions on the continent, a narrative that began with enslavement and the experience of the Middle Passage.

Keywords:   Wheatley, Sancho, African identity, Africa, diaspora, slavery

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