Criteria for identifying possibly self-published texts:

  1. Stated as self-published through phrases such as “published by the author” or “printed for the author.”
  2. Printed by a known job printer. Job printers were identified by searching the American Antiquarian Society catalog for other works printed by the printer. Typical items printed by a job printer include yearbooks for universities, pamphlets for local organizations or companies, and other miscellaneous works spanning genres and themes.
  3. Statement in imprint such as “printed by,” “press of,” or “printer,” which indicates that the person listed in the imprint was the printer, not publisher.
  4. No publication information listed in imprint. Although nothing is known about these texts’ printing or publication, having no publishing or printing information on the imprint may be an indication that the work was done by a job printer.
  5. Outside evidence or in-text information about self-publication.

Tags were added to texts ranking the likelihood they were self-published:

1. Possibly Self-Published

These texts are either printed by job printers, have "printed by" or an equivalent in the imprint, or have no publication information. The reason for each text's inclusion is listed as a separate tag. We have over-included texts rather than exclude possibilities, so many items at this level are likely not to have been self-published.

2. Probably Self-Published

Either because of additional printing details, the author's publication of other texts, or other information, these works are more likely to be self-published, but are not stated as self-published.

3. Certainly Self-Published

Conclusive out-of-text information indicates this work was self-published.

4. Stated Self-Published

Either the text or the imprint clearly indicates this work was published by the author.

The images attached to items have been added when the American Antiquarian Society owns a digitized copy. The images are of the title page and, if it includes copyright information, the verso. 

Sources consulted:

This list of possibly self-published black texts was created with reference to multiple bibliographies and databases of black-authored texts. If search terms are not listed, we went through the entire source looking for text meeting the above criteria.

  • Searched American Antiquarian Society catalog using genre term “blacks as authors” for phrases “the author,” “printed by,” or “job printer” within imprint field. Listed “AAS Catalog” as source.
  • Searched the Documenting the American South collections “North American Slave Narratives” and “The Church in the Southern Black Community.” Listed “UNC Documenting the South” as source.
  • Searched Early Negro Writing, 17601837 by Dorothy Porter Wesley and checked WorldCat for other titles by authors. Listed “WorldCat / Early Negro Writing” as source.
  • Searched the Library Company’s Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535–1922 database using genre term “Afro-American Writers” and “author” in citation information.
  • Searched through the bibliography Black Soldiers, Black Sailors, Black Ink.
  • Searched source books for Black Biography for self-published books.
  • Searched for texts published by persons listed in Black Biography listed as authors.
  • Searched WorldCat for texts published by people mentioned in The Afro-American Press and Its Editors. Listed “WorldCat / Afro-American Press” as source.
  • Searched bibliography Black Writers in New England and checked WorldCat for other titles by same author. Listed “Black Writers in New England” as source.
  • Searched Dictionary of Literary Biography—Volume 50: Afro-American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance. Not listed in final results because all writers had previously been searched.
  • Searched Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century entries in WorldCat, listed “Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century” as source.
  • Searched African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary entries in WorldCat. Listed “African American Women” as source.
  • Also included texts found in the McBlain Books online catalog, Early African American Print Culture, and Black Book Publishing in the United States. Listed as “McBlain, Early AA Print Culture, and Black Book Publishers” as source.
  • Searched National Union Catalog for other texts published by authors already on the list. Listed “National Union Catalog” as source.

Full list of works consulted:

Burkett, Randall K., et al., eds. Black Biography, 1790-1950: A Cumulative Index. Alexandria: Chadwyck-Healey, 1991.

Clark, Edward. Black Writers in New England: A Bibliography, with Biographical Notes, of Books by and about Afro-American Writers Associated with New England in the Collection of Afro-American Literature, Suffolk University, Museum of Afro-American History, Boston African American National Historic Site. Boston: National Park Service, 1985.

Cohen, Lara Langer, and Jordan Alexander Stein, eds. Early African American Print Culture. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press and Library Company of Philadelphia, 2012.

Documenting the American South. University Library, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Harris, Trudier, ed. Afro-American Writers before the Harlem Renaissance. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 1986.

Joyce, Donald Franklin. Black Book Publishers in the United States: A Historical Dictionary of the Presses, 1817-1990. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Library Company of Philadelphia. Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922.

Litwack, Leon, and August Meier, eds. Black Leaders of the Nineteenth Century. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988.

Moebs, Thomas Truxun. Black Soldiers, Black Sailors, Black Ink: Research Guide on African-Americans in U.S. Military History, 15261900. Chesapeake Bay [Va.]: Moebs Pub. Co., 1994.

The National Union Catalog Pre-1956 Imprints: A Cumulative Author List Representing Library of Congress Printed Cards and Titles Reported by Other American Libraries. London: Mansell; Chicago: American Library Association, 1968–1981.

Penn, Irvine Garland. The Afro-American Press and Its Editors. Springfield, Mass: Willey & Co., 1891.

Porter, Dorothy, ed. Early Negro Writing, 17601837. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971.

Salem, Dorothy C., ed. African American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland, 1993.

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