Black Print Unbound explores the development of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) newspaper, the
Christian Recorder, the oldest black periodical of the United States dating to the pre-Civil War era.
According to Gardner, the book “is the most detailed study of the subscribers—and
likely readers—of an early Black publication ever shared.” Gardner particularly wanted
to investigate the individual lives of those who subscribed to the publication, looking
into their lives and what reading and subscribing to the Recorder might have meant, he said.
Gardner, an English professor at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) in Michigan,
began his research as a result of teaching literature courses at SVSU that examined
American literature from the 1800s as well as African-American writing.
To complete his research, Gardner tapped into connections with Illinois Wesleyan.
Pamela Muirhead '68, an associate professor of English (now retired) at Illinois Wesleyan,
and her husband Jack Muirhead '62 have been involved in the Bloomington-Normal Black
History Collection Project and helped plan Presence, Pride & Passion, A History of African-Americans in McLean County, an exhibit at the McLean County Museum of History. Gardner said the Muirheads shared
their relevant knowledge on those topics for the book.
Gardner graduated from Illinois Wesleyan with a major in English. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and has
been a member of the SVSU English faculty since 1996. Gardner has published with the
African American Review and edited Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, a compilation of Carter’s work from a post-Civil War era African-American newspaper.