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Acknowledgments This book began in 1992, when Houston Baker encouraged me to seek the slave narrative’s testimonial origins in Puritan evidences. Doubt turned into fascination when I encountered the remarkable number of confessions and execution sermons by and about criminals of color. Fascination became amazement when, on my first visit to the Library Company of Philadelphia, Phillip Lapsansky responded to a tentative research query by standing up, striding to his desk, and returning with a stack of 3 x 5 cards. Each one documented a pamphlet or a broadside devoted to the black condemned. Nearly two decades later, while completing (as I thought) the manuscript for this, my second book, I stopped into the Library Company to tie up some loose ends. Almost as an afterthought, I mentioned the Freeman murder case to Phil, who, by way of reply, asked what I thought of the Sixth Census. Editing came to a halt, and a new round of research and writing began. Scholars often say that talking to a good archivist for five minutes can save you hours, even months, of work; for me, conversations with Phil have had the exact opposite effect. Intrigued as I am with counterfactuals, I simply cannot imagine my life’s work without him. That first trip to the archive set impossibly high expectations—which, astonishingly, have been met time and again. In 2007, awarded an American Antiquarian Society-National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship for an altogether different research project, I found myself obsessed with two subjects I’d sworn to avoid: piracy and the slave trade. Piece by piece, the gallows literature book I had consigned to the scrap heap was salvaged. I didn’t recognize it then, but my conclusion hove into sight the afternoon Marie Lamoreaux presented me with Das Manheimer Trauerspiel. It was my great good fortune to have arrived at the AAS in time to have John Hench ask probing questions about the project’s scope and to depart after spending several productive, convivial months with Paul Erickson. (To say nothing of lovely garden evenings with Gary and Joanne Chaison and with Bob and Caroline Sloat!) Caroline generously helped me integrate my morning writ- 444 Acknowledgments ing routine with research and good fellowship: each exhilarating weekday that summer and fall, five hours of caffeine-fueled writing were followed by a roller-coaster bike ride through the City of Seven Hills, culminating in my arrival on the GDH lawn for the fellows’ lunch and a rewarding afternoon in the library. I particularly remember the collegiality of Lisa Gitelman, Kyle Roberts, Margaretta Lovell, Sarah McCoubrey, Adam Nelson, Peter Reed, Daniel Kilbride, Peter Messer, and Stacey Robertson. Bob Gross, as always, posed the one question I least wanted—and most needed—to think about. Cheryl McRell, Jim Moran, and Ann-Cathrine Rapp made possible a rare moment of work-life balance. Jason Healy returned me to the world of the senses with our Northampton romps and his stunning canvases. Generous short-term funding during a 2007–2008 sabbatical provided the time, space, and resources to complete Chapters 3 and 6: a Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Fellowship at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. An invitation to share this work-in-progress at the Center for Law, History, and Culture in University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law allowed me to draw heavily on the Ariela Gross/Hilary Schor/Nomi Stolzenberg brain trust. An Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship brought me back to the Library Company of Philadelphia in April 2008, just in time to make the most of Phil Lapsansky’s presence in the reading room. While there, I was reminded of how fun Connie King makes archival work. I owe Jim Green and Ros Remer at least one dog dinner—and so much more. Bill Gleason, Dirk Hartog, John Reuland, and Briallen Hopper made my return trip to Princeton’s Americanist Colloquium a treat, and Peter Stallybrass provided a lovely homecoming to University of Pennsylvania’s History of Material Texts Seminar. The LCP-McNeil Center conferences Incarceration Nation and Early African American Print Culture introduced me to kindred intellectual spirits Caleb Smith and Jodi Schorb; I am grateful to Jordan Alexander Stein and Lara Langer Cohen for inviting me to participate in the latter and its exciting companion volume. Edlie Wong...


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