African American writing commonly represents New World topography as a set of entrapments, contesting the open horizons, westward expansion, and individual freedom characteristic of the white, Eurocentric literary tradition. Geographies of Flight: Phillis Wheatley to Octavia Butler provides the first comprehensive treatment of the ways in which African American authors across three centuries have confronted the predicament of inhabiting space under conditions of bondage and structural oppression. William Merrill Decker examines how, in testifying to those conditions, fourteen black authors have sought to transform a national cartography that, well into the twenty-first century, reflects white supremacist assumptions. These writers question the spatial dimensions of a mythic American liberty and develop countergeographies in which descendants of the African diaspora lay claim to the America they have materially and culturally created.
Tracking the testimonial voice in a range of literary genres, Geographies of Flight explores themes of placement and mobility in the work of Phillis Wheatley, Olaudah Equiano, David Walker, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W. E. B. Du Bois, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Octavia Butler.