The 1911 novel Ethiopia Unbound by Ghanaian writer J. E. Casely Hayford is widely considered the first English-language novel published by an African writer. 110 years later, the novel is getting a reboot through a new edition published by Michigan State University Press and edited by Jeanne-Marie Jackson and Adwoa A. Opoku-Agyemang. The book is set to release in September 2024.

First published in 1911, Ethiopia Unbound: Studies in Race Emancipation has been cited as the earliest pan-African fiction, making a plea for a unified African nation. The book features philosophical debates between an African and his English friend, along with references to contemporary African events and ancient African history, to argue for exploration of African identity and the struggle for emancipation.

The 2024 edition Ethiopia Unbound: A Critical Edition shines new light on Hayford’s 1911 book. Hayford drew material from his career as a barrister, statesman, and newspaper editor to augment the book’s fictional elements, showcasing the intellectual versatility of West Africa. Moving between London and the Gold Coast, as well as across the past, present, and imagined future of Hayford’s Fante civilization, Ethiopia Unbound is an essential record of how Africans at the turn of the 20th century made sense of their place in a rapidly changing world.

Jeanne-Marie Jackson is associate professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. She received her PhD in comparative literature from Yale University in 2012. In 2021 she was named an Andrew Carnegie fellow, and in 2023 she became senior editor of the flagship English literature journal ELH.

Adwoa A. Opoku-Agyemang received her PhD from the University of Toronto’s Centre for Comparative Literature and a master’s from Paris-Sorbonne University. In 2020 she was named the University of Michigan’s Du Bois-Mandela-Rodney fellow, and she is currently a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council fellow.

Preorder here.