Originally published between 1853 and 1901, these three novels represent the beginnings of the black literary tradition in the United States. They have now been collected in one volume for the first time, edited and with and introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Clotel, or The President's Daughter by William Wells Brown (1853). Written by an escaped slave, this novel is the gripping account of the ordeals of a mulatto woman purported to be the daughter of Thomas Jefferson.
Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted by Frances E.W. Harper (1892). In this pioneering work of the black woman's literary movement, a light-skinned black woman is raised as a free white, only to be tricked into slavery.
The Marrow of Tradition by Charles W. Chesnutt (1901). This suspenseful masterpiece tells of a sensitive African-American doctor facing the realities of segregation and racial terror in the Reconstructive South.