American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

BLAKE; OR, THE HUTS OF AMERICA (1859). In this novel by early black nationalist Martin Robison Delany (1812-1885), the title character, an experienced seaman, ships out from Cuba aboard an American slave ship to advance an international insurrection against slavery. En route to Africa, Blake and fellow black sailors sing a mutinous chantey celebrating the unfettered ocean as an inspiration for the liberation of slaves. Later, during the voyage, a mutiny* and tempest erupt simultaneously, the slaves belowdecks unleashing a storm of rebellion that mirrors the hurricane raging above. The revolt is quelled as the seas calm, and a promising rainbow greets the ship’s arrival. Ensuing chapters use sea imagery metaphorically as they recount Blake’s continuing inland efforts to orchestrate a slave rebellion and thereby realize on land the freedom of the fetterless main. [See also AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE OF THE SEA; SLAVE NARRATIVES]

Brad S. Born