Author Interview: Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Truth Be Told is an audio-original collection of compelling primary-source documents written by 19th-century Black women along with author Erica Armstrong Dunbar. We spoke with author Erica Armstrong Dunbar about the inspiration for Truth Be Told, the Black-owned Philly bookstores she loves, and more!

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

I am a fortunate woman. I have the opportunity to tell the stories of Black women who lived and loved during the darkest days of American history. As a professor, I teach these stories, carefully weaving them into the larger narrative that we call United States history—making connections between the past and present. I wanted to bring together the narratives of Black women who fought for social justice long before the twentieth century-women who were born enslaved and walked different paths to find justice. Harriet Jacobs, Susie King Taylor, and Ida B. Wells were courageous freedom fighters and it is an honor to present them.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

The past and the present have so many connections!

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

It’s always a little weird to listen to recordings of my own voice but Robin Miles has a voice that EVERYONE needs to hear. I’m so grateful to her. She breathes life into the narratives of these women. Bravo!

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

I AM an audiobook listener! My favorite audiobooks are those read by Toni Morrison. I go for walks and listen to her read, and it feels like she’s right by my side. Most recently I listened to A Mercy.

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

I have profound respect for independent booksellers, but I have a special place in my heart for those owned and operated by people of color. A big shout out to Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and Harriett’s Bookshop. These Black-owned Philadelphia bookstores are changing the landscape of the city and providing space to showcase the talent of Black writers.

Anything else to share with us?

I’m just delighted to share the stories of Black women during Women’s History Month. It is an honor and an obligation.

Header photo by Whitney Thomas

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