Episode 378: Tara Bynum, Everyday Black Living in Early America

Cover of Reading Pleasures: Everyday Black Living in Early American by Tara BynumWhen we study the history of Black Americans, especially in the early American period, we tend to focus on slavery and the slave trades. But focusing solely on slavery can hinder our ability to see that, like all early Americans, Black Americans were multi-dimensional people who led complicated lives and lived a full range of experiences that were worth living and talking about.

Tara Bynum, an Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Iowa and the author of Reading Pleasures: Everyday Black Living in Early America, joins us to explore the lives of four early Black American writers: Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, James Albert Unkawsaw Groniosaw, and David Walker.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.‌

Episode Summary

Tara Bynum is an Assistant Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Iowa. She’s a writer and scholar with research expertise in early African American histories before 1800. She’s also the author of Reading Pleasures: Everyday Black Living in Early America.

During our investigation of the writings of early Black Americans, Tara reveals information about the lives of Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, James Albert Unkawsaw Groniosaw, and David Walker; Ways religion influenced the lives and writing of these four authors; And, what brought Wheatley, Marrant, Groniosaw, and Walter joy, and why their joy is worth considering as we try to better understand the early American past.

What You’ll Discover

  • How literature scholars approach Black early Americans’ writings as opposed to historians
  • The things that brought meaning and joy to the lives of Wheatley, Marrant, Gronniosaw, and Walker
  • Obour Tanner
  • Obour Tanner’s friendship with Phillis Wheatley
  • Tanner and Wheatley’s experiences during the American Revolution
  • John Marrant
  • The First Great Awakening
  • The role of religion in Wheatley, Marrant, Gronniosaw, and Walker’s lives
  • The Countess of Huntingdon
  • David Walker
  • David Walker’s “Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World”
  • Why researching the things that brought pleasure to Black early Americans is important

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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

Each of the men and women discussed in Reading Pleasures found meaning in their Christian religion and faith. In your opinion, what role do you think religion would've played in their lives if the First Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century had not happened?

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