Reading Pleasures


American Antiquarian Society
185 Salisbury Street
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

Join us as literary historian Tara A. Bynum discusses her new book Reading Pleasures: Everyday Black Living in Early America. In the book, Bynum tells the compelling stories of four early American writers who expressed feeling good despite living while enslaved or only nominally free. The poet Phillis Wheatley delights in writing letters to a friend. Ministers John Marrant and James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw memorialize their love for God. David Walker’s pamphlets ask Black Americans to claim their victory over slavery. Together, their writings reflect the joyous, if messy, humanity inside each of them. This proof of a thriving interior self in pursuit of good feeling forces us to reckon with the fact that Black lives do matter.


Dr. Tara A. Bynum is a scholar of early African American literary histories before 1800, and is an assistant professor of English and African American Studies at University of Iowa. She received her PhD in English from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in Political Science from Barnard College. Her current monograph, Reading Pleasures is part of a larger, ongoing project that thinks more deeply about how black communities in the early republic made and shaped the very meaning of nation-building in the greater New England area and beyond. Related essays have appeared or are forthcoming in: Early American Literature, Common-Place, Legacy, J19, Criticism, American Periodicals, and African American Literature in Transition, Vol. 1, 1750-1800. Dr. Bynum’s work has received and is indebted to generous financial support from: Washington College’s CV Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the John Carter Brown Library, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Library Company of Philadelphia’s Program in African American History, Rutgers University’s Department of English, University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies. Dr. Bynum held a AAS-National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society in 2016.