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Caribbean Literature

Early Writings

Jose Maria Heredia, slave uprising, Caribbean literature, Runaway Slave, African people

During the period of European enslavement of Native American and African people, from the 16th century to the mid-19th century, the most prevalent Caribbean literary forms were autobiography and poetry. These works introduce themes that became common in Caribbean literature: exile, migration, displacement, and questions of identity. The most significant of these writings in the English language is The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself (1831).

Early Caribbean writings in Spanish include the poetry and autobiography of the slave Juan Francisco Manzano of Cuba in the 1820s and 1830s. Jose Maria Heredia is recognized as the first Cuban writer (1820) to produce anti-colonialist poems. Poesias (Poetry, 1838) and Poesias escogidas (Selected Poetry, 1842) were written by Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes (known as Placido), who was executed in 1844 for his alleged role in a slave uprising. Biografia de un cimarron (1966; The Autobiography of a Runaway Slave, 1968), by Cuban anthropologist Miguel Barnet, is based on the narratives of Esteban Montejo, a 104-year-old former slave who recounted his life through interviews. Though published much later, this work is considered a traditional slave narrative. Max Henrique Urena of the Dominican Republic wrote nationalist works in the 19th century. In the French-speaking Caribbean, novels first appeared in Haiti in the mid-19th century: Stella (1859), by Emeric Bergeaud; and Francesca, les jeux du sort (Francesca, The Game of Fate, 1873) and Le damne (The Damned, 1877) by Demesvar Delorme.

Article key phrases:

Jose Maria Heredia, slave uprising, Caribbean literature, Runaway Slave, African people, cimarron, Placido, autobiography, displacement, exile, Francesca, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Stella, migration, Gabriel, themes, English language, Spanish, novels, Biografia, century, life, interviews, works, year-old

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