Race, Romance, and Rebellion: Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century

Posted in Africa, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2014-06-06 22:59Z by Steven

Race, Romance, and Rebellion: Literatures of the Americas in the Nineteenth Century

University of Virginia Press
October 2013
224 pages
6 x 9
Cloth ISBN: 9780813934884
Paper ISBN: 9780813934891
Ebook ISBN: 9780813934907

Colleen C. O’Brien, Associate Professor of English
University of South Carolina, Upstate

As in many literatures of the New World grappling with issues of slavery and freedom, stories of racial insurrection frequently coincided with stories of cross-racial romance in nineteenth-century U.S. print culture. Colleen O’Brien explores how authors such as Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Livermore, and Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda imagined the expansion of race and gender-based rights as a hemispheric affair, drawing together the United States with Africa, Cuba, and other parts of the Caribbean. Placing less familiar women writers in conversation with their more famous contemporaries—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Lydia Maria Child—O’Brien traces the transnational progress of freedom through the antebellum cultural fascination with cross-racial relationships and insurrections. Her book mines a variety of sources—fiction, political rhetoric, popular journalism, race science, and biblical treatises—to reveal a common concern: a future in which romance and rebellion engender radical social and political transformation.

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Zoë, or The Quadroon’s Triumph: A Tale for the Times (Volume II)

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, Women on 2011-03-29 00:16Z by Steven

Zoë, Or, The Quadroon’s Triumph: A Tale for the Times (Volume II)

Truman and Spofford (Cincinnati)
323 pages

Mrs. Elizabeth D. Livermore

With Illustrations Henri Lovie, and Charles Bauerle

“God has bid away the human soul in the black man’s skin and his darker person, that in finding it, we may re-discover our alienated and forgotten nature; and rejoice more over the one that was lost, than the ninety and nine who went not astray.”—Belllows.


CHAPTER I.— Santa Cruz
CHAP. II— Emancipation
CHAP.III— The Retrospect
CHAP. IV.— Zoë’s Greeting to the Tropics
CHAP. V.— Mingling op the Old and the New
CHAP. VI.— Young America expatiates
CHAP. VII.— Zoe opens her Mission
CHAP. VIII.— Young America is heretical on Art
CHAP. IX.— The Queens op the Queen City
CHAP. X.—Diamond cut Diamond
CHAP. XI—The Shipwreck
CHAP. XII.—”Books in Brooks.”
CHAP. XIII— Mrs. Pumpkin’s Tract for the Times
CHAP. XIV.— The Quarrel and its Denouement
CHAP. XV.— Young America makes a Declaration, not of Independence
CHAP. XVI.—The War-horse Eagle
CHAP. XVII—Home, with its Shadows
CHAP. XVIII.—The Wormwood and the Gall
CHAP. XIX.— The Hurricane
CHAP. XX.— Light after Darkness
CHAP. XXI.— A Voice from Amazona
CHAP. XXII.—The Church Recusant
CHAP. XXIII.— Letters and Reminiscences
CHAP. XXIV.—The Closing Triumph

We must now return to Santa Cruz and give a hasty sketch of the fortunes of George Carlan and his wife, during the twelve years absence of their daughter in Denmark.

It will be recollected that the former, in emerging from slavery, had placed before himself two objects for which to live and labor—wealth, and independence; or as it may be expressed in one phrase, independence through wealth. Towards these his aims were directed and his ambitious hopes constantly aspiring.

Sophia, on the contrary, affectionate and retiring, as she was, shared but in a slight degree her husband’s restless wishes; and if ever her thoughts were turned towards his favorite goal, and her imagination excited by his visions of distant good attained through these means, it was that he and her child, more than herself, might win the happiness which would accrue from their possession.

Mr. Carlan’s industry and enterprise had been crowned with success so far as to place them in comfortable circumstances.   Indeed, in comparison with most of his tribe, he was wealthy and was regarded with consideration by his own caste. But his affluence gave him no honorable position among the white Creoles of the island. To-be-sure, he had business relations with them, and the Danish officials treated him with a half friendly, half condescending familiarity, which was anything but agreeable. But by the English residents he was looked upon with distrust and aversion as an ambitious, discontented man, who was to be avoided and scorned on every possible occasion to prevent his impertinent encroachments upon their dignity and aristocratic rights. As these latter saw their power and influence decline in the island just in proportion to the losses and poverty incurred by their miserable management of their property, spendthrift habits, and ruinous absenteeism, so in the same ratio did they hate the Irish emigrants into whose hands their estates had fallen, or the colored people who, through their enterprise, were seizing upon their commerce and manufactures.

Had George Carlan, when he emerged from slavery, possessed a true idea of the value of freedom in its relations to the training and development of the human soul above all things else, he would have been saved much bitterness of feeling and many heartaches, and in the end have prospered much better also in his worldly affairs. For by this principle deeply-rooted and acting vitally upon his daily life, he would have gained a self-possession equal to every emergency, an insight into the laws of commercial intercourse, and proper appreciation of the forces of nature, and the due balance to be preserved between the consumption of the products in which he dealt and the law of their supply, quite indispensable to success in any business department. This, too, would have given him that patient reliance on Providence in untoward seasons, and that geniality and kindness of demeanor in his social and business relations, which are better than a capital of thousands to one who launches forth on the sea of commercial life. But these ideas he had had no opportunity of learning in slavery, and it was not to be expected that he would begin his career as a merchant under better auspices, in these respects, than multitudes, who commence life with none of his disadvantages. Still he had much skill, shrewdness, and industry, and for several years his success was without a drawback, and, as was remarked in the commencement of this story, he was enabled to surround himself and family with not only the comforts, but many of the luxuries of life…

Read Volume II here.

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Zoë, or The Quadroon’s Triumph: A Tale for the Times (Volume I)

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, Women on 2011-03-29 00:03Z by Steven

Zoë, Or, The Quadroon’s Triumph: A Tale for the Times (Volume I)

Truman and Spofford (Cincinnati)
353 pages

Mrs. Elizabeth D. Livermore

With Illustrations Henri Lovie, and Charles Bauerle

“God has bid away the human soul in the black man’s skin and his darker person, that in finding it, we may re-discover our alienated and forgotten nature; and rejoice more over the one that was lost, than the ninety and nine who went not astray.”—Belllows.


CHAPTER I.— The Sacrifice
CHAP. II.—The Voyage
CHAP. IH—New Scenes and Associations
CHAP. IV.— Questionings
CHAP. V.—Children at Home
CHAP. VI—The Teacher and Taught
CHAP. VII.—Bereavement
CHAP. VIII.—Lady versus Law
CHAP. IX.— Color can Feel
CHAP. X.—Anglo-Saxons do not know Everything
CHAP. XI—The Cloud hangs low
CHAP. XII.— Fresh Breezes From the West
CHAP. XIII.—A New Preacher in the Field
CHAP. XIV.—Spirit-Sister
CHAP. XV.—Pic-Nic —the Wandering Jew reappears
CHAPTER XVI.— Castle Building on the Prairies
CHAP. XVII—Chit-chat
CHAP. XVIII.— Spiritualism
CHAP. XIX.—Magnetism
CHAP. XX.—The Parley
CHAP. XXI.— Steel in the Ore
CHAP. XXII—Fire in the Flint
CHAP. XXIII—The Dedication

The story of Zoë Carlan, a young colored girl, of the little Danish island of Santa Cruz, is a pathetic illustration of the false position into which a refined and educated nature may be thrown, by the fierce prejudices of caste and color.

Her father, George Carlan, was a native of the island, and originally a slave. His ancestry on the father’s side for two generations had been whites, so that with his light complexion, he combined much of the energy and restiveness under despotic rule of the Anglo-Saxon race.

Slavery under the Danes had some mild and alleviating features. Schools were supported by government, in which the rudiments of knowledge were taught the slaves, with a view to their eventual freedom, and provisions were made, by which it could be purchased by those who would employ the requisite exertion.

George so diligently used these means, that at the age of twenty-eight, he stepped forth under the clear vault of Heaven, a free man. He could but imperfectly read and write and cast accounts; and he reasoned thus with himself. “Here I am, with none to rule over me but my God and my King.   Independence and influence I will have, but how to gain them is the question. I am too old to educate myself; but rich I may become, and rich I will be, will take my stand beside the haughty whites, and whatever consideration and power may be mine through wealth, I will attain.”

Through his industry and perseverance, he had become a successful merchant; and at the time when this story commences, he was living in the enjoyment of not only the comforts, but many of the luxuries of life. On attaining his freedom, he married a young colored woman, of much gentleness and native refinement of character, and one child, the little Zoë, was given them, to be the light of their home, and the object of all his aspiring hopes and desires.

But the free blacks and colored people (for that distinction is very carefully made in the islands), though experiencing much favor from the Danish government, and sometimes even preferred to the proud and discontented white colonists, when indulgences are to be awarded, have no position in society.   In the first place, the latter are, for the most part, the children of illicit connections, and where is the community where the odium of such sin falls not upon the weaker party and her innocent offspring. Then the people of color are a continual source of contention and trouble; they are restless, discontented, aspiring. For every step they advance higher than the full black, they cast behind them a glance of indifference or of scorn, while they are ever looking upward and striving to plant their feet side by side with the whites, if not in advance of them. This is met with unflinching opposition by the dominant race. In all spheres within their control, they omit not to give the most scathing demonstrations of their contempt. In social life they seldom meet, of course. It is, however, the custom for the Danish governor-general to hold levees, from time to time; and to these the chief mulattoes are invited as well as the whites. Gladly would the latter excuse themselves from the honor of attendance, knowing the odious companionship to which they will be subjected, but it is well understood that an invitation is equivalent to a command, and policy, perchance safety, forbids a refusal. There is by no means a very cordial  feeling between many of them and their rulers. The population is a mixed one. Many of the old and more wealthy families are of English descent. Their religion is only tolerated, the Lutheran being that of the State. Almost all offices are held by Danish officials, often unscrupulous and grasping, and the Creoles are made to feel in numberless ways, that they are but step-children to the mother-country, and that their interests are ever second to her own. Then, more than all other causes of jealousy is the slackening of their control over the blacks, by the measures of the home-government. They see in it their humiliation and ruin; and as prudence forbids a very open expression of their outraged feelings to their rulers, they display a temper all the more bitter towards the immediate cause of them…

Read Volume I here.  Read Volume II here.

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Coloring History and Mixing Race in Levina Urbino’s Sunshine in the Palace and Cottage and Louise Heaven’s In Bonds

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States, Women on 2010-05-17 14:31Z by Steven

Coloring History and Mixing Race in Levina Urbino’s ‘Sunshine in the Palace and Cottage’ and Louise Heaven’s ‘In Bonds’

Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers
Volume 24, Number 2 (2007)
E-ISSN: 1534-0643, Print ISSN: 0748-4321
DOI: 10.1353/leg.2007.0018

Eric Gardner, Professor of English
Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan

While the figure of the “tragic mulatta” is writ large in American literature and literary criticism, this essay shares a recognition most recently advanced by William L. Andrews and Mitch Kachun: “What is remarkable though not always acknowledged . . . is the fact that the majority of beautiful mulattas in American novels before 1865 . . . do not end up unfulfilled” (xliii). Andrews and Kachun note that Metta Victoria Victor’s Maum Guinea, H. L. [Hezekiah Lord] Hosmer’s Adela [The Octooon], John T. Trowbridge’s Neighbor Jackwood, [Thomas] Mayne Reid’s The Quadroon, and E. D. E. N. Southworth’s Retribution feature mixed-race female characters who, though they “must endure a stint in slavery and withstand intimidation by lascivious slave owners and brutal overseers,” “more often than not . . . eventually encounter a northerner or a European on whose love they can rely” (lxv, n. 45; xliii). While it is still too early to make judgments about “the majority”-especially given that Andrews and Kachun’s own work illustrates that we need to be hesitant about assuming any “complete sets”-this essay shares the sense that mixed-race characters who are not “tragic mulattas” have been absent from our discussions for too long.

This absence is complicated by the disproportionately larger presence in our scholarship of archetypal examples of the tragic mulatta type in works such as Lydia Maria Child’s “The Quadroons,” William Wells Brown’s Clotel, and Elizabeth Livermore’s Zoë, even though these works were neither more popular nor exceedingly better than some of the novels noted by Andrews and Kachun. The reasons for this imbalance are complex and beyond the scope of this essay; it may come in part from Child’s early imprint on a vast amount of antislavery literature (including Brown’s story) and in part from the limited senses of racial definition that have dominated much contemporary scholarship. Regardless, the dominance of the figure of the tragic mulatta in our scholarship has limited our consideration of race and racial identity. This imbalance seems to me, for example, to be partially to blame for Lauren Berlant’s dismissal of the full range of types of political efficacy available to mixed-race characters-a formation scholars such as P. Gabrielle Foreman have challenged when applied to Black women’s texts. It has also, among other gaps, led many of us to locate the first real resistance to the figure of the tragic mulatta in works such as Child’s Reconstruction-era Romance of the Republic and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s Iola Leroy.

This essay thus begins by acknowledging that there were several early examples of a discourse of mixed-race heroines running counter to the figure of the tragic mulatta-one in which the mixed-race heroine not only avoids a tragic end but actually embraces her genealogy, uses her visual racial indeterminacy to aid nation-building and self-empowerment, and finds fulfillment in a multi-racial family housed within the larger Black community. Specifically, I examine two previously unknown mixed-race heroines who are ultimately far from tragic-indeed, who seem almost consciously constructed as revisions to the tragic mulatta type. This essay argues that, in different ways, the protagonists of both Levina B. Urbino’s Sunshine in the Palace and Cottage (1854) and Louise Palmer Heaven’s In Bonds (published in 1867 under the pseudonym Laura Preston) explode many of the expectations of the tragic mulatta type. Through this work, I hope to begin to re-imagine the contours of our sense of the mixed-race female character (tragic mulatta and otherwise) in American literature.

I focus on a pair of now unknown novels by now relatively unknown authors for a set of reasons. Both were popular in their day: Sunshine went through four editions (under different titles) in six years, and In Bonds, published in both San Francisco and New York, seems to have launched a successful if spotty career. Both have publication circumstances of interest to students of race: the publisher of Sunshine’s fourth edition (which carried the entirely new title The Home Angel) was Thayer and Eldridge, who also contracted to publish Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl before bankruptcy forestalled their doing so; the publisher of In Bonds founded the Overland Monthly and was a colleague of Mark Twain (who would, of course, write works key to considerations of race in American literature). Indeed, both books demonstrate a rich awareness of the literary discourses of race and race-mixing swirling around them. Though evidence about their composition is lacking, Sunshine repeatedly invokes and rewrites the language of the tragic mulatta figure, while In Bonds actually makes specific reference to Uncle Tom’s Cabin as part of the driving force in the novel’s plot (128-29). Though both novels and both authors are absent from contemporary critical work, Sunshine and In Bonds offer fascinating counterpoints to the dominant sense of the figure of the tragic mulatta and presage works that critics have treated as more revolutionary, such as Child’s Romance of the Republic and Harper’s Iola Leroy. Indeed, both Sunshine and (albeit a bit less so) In Bonds suggest that a mixed-race heroine who overcomes potential tragedy is central to America’s future…

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