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American BardsWalt Whitman and Other Unlikely Candidates for National Poet$
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Edward Whitley

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780807834213

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899427_whitley

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James M. Whitfield

James M. Whitfield

The Poet of Slaves

(p.21) Chapter One James M. Whitfield
American Bards

Edward Whitley

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines James M. Whitfield's perspective on the racial makeup of antebellum America, paying particular attention to his belief that African Americans were central—as opposed to peripheral—to the American experience and to the future of America itself. It also considers Whitfield's attempt to render America as verse in his collection of poetry, America and Other Poems, and to structure it in a way that would reflect the contradictory nature of black life in the country. In addition, the chapter discusses how the sense of being excluded from the nation allowed Whitfield to claim the title of American bard. It analyzes Whitfield's views on slavery and emigration and compares them with those of Walt Whitman before concluding with a close reading of the poems “America” and “How Long.”

Keywords:   slavery, James M. Whitfield, America, African Americans, poetry, American bard, emigration, Walt Whitman

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