This article examines texts produced in response to the criminal trial of Joseph Mountain to illuminate the early construction of the black rapist in American print. The central text in its analysis is Mountain's own “criminal confession,” Sketches of the Life of Joseph Mountain (1790). This article views Mountain's text as a response to a different set of concerns than later narratives of African Americans convicted of rape and positions Mountain's biography as a response not merely to concerns over black slave revolt alone, but to a related, if more immediate threat of cross-racial, proletarian revolution.

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