Common Reading Initiative Resources

Background/Teaching Links

NPR interview with Toni Morrison about A Mercy

Amardeep Singh, “‘A Mercy (2008): Overview and Links”

Selected Scholarship on A Mercy [in order of publication]

Liz Bowen, “Learning to Read Ecologically: Disability, Animality, and Metaphor in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy,” ELH 88, no. 2 (2021): 525–50.

“Remembering the Past: Toni Morrison’s Seventeenth Century in Today’s Classroom (A Roundtable),” Early American Literature 48, no. 1 (2013).

Jean Wyatt, “Failed Messages, Maternal Loss, and Narrative Form in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy,” Modern Fiction Studies 58, 1 (2012): 128–51.

Maxine L. Montgomery, “Got on my Traveling Shoes: Migration, Exile, and Home in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy,” Journal of Black Studies 42, no. 4 (2011): 627–37.

Valerie Babb, E Pluribus Unum?: The American Origins Narrative of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy,” MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 36, no. 2 (2011): 147–64.

Jessica Wells Cantiello, “From Pre-Racial to Post Racial? Reading and Reviewing A Mercy in the Age of Obama,” MELUS: The Journal of the Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 36, no. 2 (2011): 165–183.

La Vinia Delois Jennings, “Review: ‘A Mercy’: Toni Morrison Plots the Formation of Racial Slavery in Seventeenth-Century America,” Callaloo 32, no. 2 (2009): 645–49.

Broader Morrison Scholarship

Bibliography Project Sponsored by the Toni Morrison Society: at The Official Website of the Toni Morrison Society:

Amardeep Singh, “Toni Morrison: Biographical Note”

The much-anticipated exhibition “Sites of Memory: The Archival World of Toni Morrison” is scheduled to open in Spring 2023 at Princeton University’s Firestone Library.

Historical Scholarship on Gender and Slavery in North America and the Caribbean [in order of publication]

Jessica Johnson, Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2022).

Celia E. Naylor, Unsilencing Slavery: Telling Truth about Rose Hall Plantation, Jamaica (Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 2022).

Jennifer L. Morgan, Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship, and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2021).

–. Laboring Women: Gender and Reproduction in New World Slavery (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross, A Black Woman’s History of the United States: ReVisioning American History (Boston: Beacon Press, 2020).

–. Berry, The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (Boston: Beacon Press, 2017).

Sasha Turner, Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing and Slavery in Jamaica (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2017).

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge (New York: Atria, 2017).

–. “‘I knew that if I went back to Virginia, I should never get my liberty.’ Ona Judge Staines: The President’s Runaway Slave,” in Women in Early America, ed. Tom Foster (New York: NYU Press, 2015), 225–45.

–. “African-American Women and Indentured Servitude,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, ed. Bonnie G. Smith (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2008).

Daina Ramey Berry and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, “The Unbroken Chain of Enslaved African Resistance and Rebellion,” in The Birth of a Nation: Nat Turner and the Making of a Movement, ed. N. Parker (New York: Atria, 2016), 35–61.

Marisa Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence and the Archive in the Urban British Caribbean (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).

–. “Slavery and the Archive,” ed. with Brian Connolly, special issue, History of the Present 6, no. 2 (2016): 105–215.

–. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2008).

Stephanie Smallwood, Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2007).

Wendy Anne Warren, “‘The cause of her grief’: The Rape of a Slave in Early New England,” The Journal of American History 93, no. 4 (2007): 1031–1049.

Stephanie M.H. Camp, Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2004).

Early America, Racialization, and Racial Entanglements

Who’s Black and Why? A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race, ed. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew S. Curran (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2022).

Kirsten Silva Gruesz, Cotton Mather’s Spanish Lessons: A Story of Language, Race, and Belonging in the Early Americas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press, 2022).

Gerald Horne, The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in 17th Century North America and the Caribbean (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2017).

Cassander L. Smith, Black Africans in the British Imagination: English Narratives of the Early Atlantic World (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 2016).

In the nineteenth century:

Brigitte Fielder, Relative Races: Genealogies of Interracial Kinship in Nineteenth-Century America (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 2020).

Black-Indigenous Studies and Black-Indigenous Relations

Tiffany Lethabo King, The Black Shoals: Offshore Formations of Black and Native Studies (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2019).

Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom (Oakland: Univ. of California Press, 2015).

–. African Cherokees in Indian Territory: From Chattel to Citizens (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2008).

Selected Theoretical Contexts

Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2016).

Katherine McKittrick and Sylvia Wynter, Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (Durham, NC: Duke Univ. Press, 2014).

Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 12, no. 2 (2008): 1–14.

Cheryl I. Harris, “Whiteness as Property,” Harvard Law Review Vol. 106, No. 8 (Jun., 1993), pp. 1707-1791.

Hortense J. Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” Diacritics 17, no. 2 (1987): 64–81.

Online Resources on the History of Slavery and the African Diaspora

Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database​: ​

First Blacks in the Americas: ​

Africans in America: ​

Africans Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts:

Teaching ideas

Below are Teacher Resources for the Common Reading Initiative. Please click the links for PDF documents.

Discussion prompts

Assignment: historical contexts

Assignment: motif tracing

Assignment: translation

Lesson plan: close reading

Common Reading Initiative Committee

Anna Brickhouse, University of Virginia
Tara A. Bynum, University of Iowa
Brigitte Fielder, University of Wisconsin
April Langley, University of South Carolina
Cassander Smith, University of Alabama
Kaitlin Tonti, Albright College

For more information about the initiative or the teaching resources available on this page, you can contact the following committee members:

Anna Brickhouse:
April Langley:
Kaitlin Tonti:

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