Hartford's Ann Plato and the Native Borders of Identity

By Ron Welburn

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Indigenous Studies, African American Studies
Paperback : 9781438455761, 312 pages, January 2016
Hardcover : 9781438455778, 312 pages, May 2015

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Table of contents

Illustrations and Maps
A Speculative and Factual Chronology for Ann Plato
1. Ann Plato: Hartford’s Literary Enigma
2. “The Natives of America” and “To the First of August”: Contrasts in Cultural Investment
3. Missinnuok at the Hartford Space
4. Long Island Sound Platos and Their Circle
5. Coordinates of a Social and Religious Personality
6. Schooling: Some Speculations; Teaching: Some Records
7. Essays: Publication and Reception of the Book
8. Essays and Lydia Sigourney: The Poetics of Borrowing
9. The Literary Personality of the Essay Topics
10. Four Women as a Cultural Circle
11. The Poetics of a Young Writer
Epilogue: After the Paper Trail
Selected Bibliography

Upholds Ann Plato as a noteworthy nineteenth-century writer, while reexamining her life and writing from an American Indian perspective.


Who was Ann Plato? Apart from circumstantial evidence, there's little information about the author of Essays; Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Poetry, published in 1841. Plato lived in a milieu of colored Hartford, Connecticut, in the early nineteenth century. Although long believed to have been African American herself, she may also, Ron Welburn argues, have been American Indian, like the father in her poem "The Natives of America." Combining literary criticism, ethnohistory, and social history, Welburn uses Plato as an example of how Indians in the Long Island Sound region adapted and prevailed despite the contemporary rhetoric of Indian disappearance. This study seeks to raise Plato's profile as an author as well as to highlight the dynamics of Indian resistance and isolation that have contributed to her enigmatic status as a literary figure.

Ron Welburn is Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of Roanoke and Wampum: Topics in Native American Heritage and Literatures.


"Hartford's Ann Plato and the Native Borders of Identity is a brilliant and fascinatingly imaginative work of research and speculation. The research is forbiddingly wide, deep, learned, determined, and resourceful. The book is fascinating as a work of speculative scholarship not only about Ann Plato but also about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century New England and Long Island American Indians, who continued to live more or less in the region of their ancestors, and often continued to uphold Indian culture, while at the same time disappearing from the written record. Welburn's work will speak to audiences interested in American Indian studies, New England history, nineteenth-century African American history and literary studies, and the history of American poetry." — Robert Dale Parker, editor of Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of American Indian Poetry to 1930