“Faithfully Drawn from Real Life”: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-08-20 20:40Z by Steven

“Faithfully Drawn from Real Life”: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 137, Number 3 (July 2013)
pages 261-300
DOI: 10.5215/pennmaghistbio.137.3.0261

Mary Maillard

A resurgence of interest in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends—the second novel by an African American and the first to portray northern racism—underscores the need for consideration of recently discovered biographical information about this enigmatic author. Previously unknown details about the lives of Frank J. Webb (1828-94) and his family and friends parallel some of his literary portrayals, subtly inform other scenes and characters, and generally help to illuminate the unique combination of biography, social history, and creative imagination that constitute Webb’s complex literary achievement.

The Garies and Their Friends is constructed around two major narrative lines: the stories of the Garie family and the Ellis family. In Georgia, Clarence Garie, a white slave owner, is living openly with his mulatto slave mistress, Emily Winston; he treats her with as much affection and respect as if she were his wife and wishes to marry her, but interracial marriage is illegal in the state. They have two children, named after their parents, Clarence and Emily. The Garies entertain Emily’s cousin, George Winston, who, although born and raised in slavery, was educated and freed by a kind master. Now, with all the appearances of a refined gentleman, he is passing as white—much to the approbation and amusement of Mr. Garie.

In Philadelphia, the Ellises are a “highly respectable and industrious coloured family.” Mr. Ellis, a carpenter, and his wife, Ellen, have three…

Read or purchase the article here.

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“A Very Different Looking Class of People”: Racial Passing, Tragedy, and the Mulatto Citizen in American Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-08-05 04:53Z by Steven

“A Very Different Looking Class of People”: Racial Passing, Tragedy, and the Mulatto Citizen in American Literature

University of Southern Mississippi
81 pages

Stephanie S. Rambo

Honors Prospectus Submitted to the Honors College of The University of Southern Mississippi In Fulfillment Bachelors of Arts In the Department of English

This project explores the mulatto citizen as one who prevails against tragedy, uses passing as an escape route to freedom and equality, and establishes a fixed racial identity in a color struck world. In nineteenth-century American literature, the mulatto penetrates a seemingly solid world of color to reveal racial anxieties of the time. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or Life Among the Lonely (1852), William Wells Brown’s Clotel, or the President’s Daughter (1853), Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends (1857) and Frances E.W. Harper’s Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted depict these mulatto characters as agents of social change. Each of these texts present the figure of the mulatto in a historical context, as a slave in the South and free/freedman in the antebellum North. Considering these various genres (esp. the blending of fiction and nonfiction at times), this study examines how different authors take a political stance by using the mulatto figure to define U.S. citizenship.

Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a foundational text due to the political response during Abraham Lincoln’s administration and from abolitionists worldwide. Stowe represents those minorities excluded from the democratic process, namely African Americans and women who were both disenfranchised. I examine political fiction by Brown, Webb, and Harper due to their depictions of the laws of slavery and African Americans’ civil rights struggles throughout the nineteenth century. Most of these American writers were excluded themselves from the political process. Therefore, I consider these writers most capable to present the voice of the marginal, mulatto citizen.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Posted in Books, History, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2013-06-10 00:00Z by Steven

Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Oxford University Press
November 2012
224 Pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780199897704

Jeffory A. Clymer, Professor of English
University of Kentucky

  • Sophisticated interdisciplinary treatment of literature’s interaction with the law
  • Dramatically revises scholarship on racial identity by emphasizing race’s connection to family and property rights
  • Demonstrates that race was entwined with economics well beyond direct issue of slavery in the nineteenth century
  • Nuanced, flexible, non-doctrinaire interpretations of both well-known and less familiar literary works

Family Money explores the histories of formerly enslaved women who tried to claim inheritances left to them by deceased owners, the household traumas of mixed-race slaves, post-Emancipation calls for reparations, and the economic fallout from anti-miscegenation marriage laws. Authors ranging from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Webb, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, to Lydia Maria Child recognized that intimate interracial relationships took myriad forms, often simultaneously-sexual, marital, coercive, familial, pleasurable, and painful. Their fiction confirms that the consequences of these relationships for nineteenth-century Americans meant thinking about more than the legal structure of racial identity. Who could count as family (and when), who could own property (and when), and how racial difference was imagined (and why) were emphatically bound together. Demonstrating that notions of race were entwined with economics well beyond the direct issue of slavery, Family Money reveals interracial sexuality to be a volatile mixture of emotion, economics, and law that had dramatic, long-term financial consequences.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. “This Most Illegal Family”: Sex, Slavery, and the Politics of Inheritance
  • 2. Blood, Truth, and Consequences: Partus Sequitur Ventrem and the Problem of Legal Title
  • 3. Plantation Heiress Fiction, Slavery, and the Properties of White Marriage
  • 4. Reparations for Slavery and Lydia Maria Child’s Reconstruction of the Family
  • 5. The Properties of Marriage in Chesnutt and Hopkins
  • Coda “Race Feeling”
  • Notes
  • Index
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Intertextual Links: Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-29 02:20Z by Steven

Intertextual Links: Reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

College Literature
Volume 40, Number 1, Spring 2013
pages 121-138
DOI: 10.1353/lit.2013.0004

Robin Miskolcze, Associate Professor of English
Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, California

Though literary critics of James Weldon Johnson’s 1912 The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man convincingly regard the novel as reminiscent of the slave narrative, few readers have considered the scope and significance of Johnson’s reference to a major best-selling literary predecessor: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Johnson’s explicit reference to Stowe’s 1852 novel early in his story solicits a reading of the intertextual links between the two novels. Specifically, I explore how Johnson’s narrator and Stowe’s Uncle Tom are connected by the symbol of the coin necklace, a gift from white men that carries a paternalistic force. In addition to Uncle Tom, I also analyze the similarities between Johnson’s narrator and Stowe’s biracial character, Adolph. Comparing Johnson’s and Stowe’s narrative choices for their biracial characters illustrates the trajectory of cultural politics involved in defining race and normative sexuality from the pre-Civil War years to the early twentieth century.

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A Home Elsewhere: Reading African American Classics in the Age of Obama

Posted in Barack Obama, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2012-09-25 22:01Z by Steven

A Home Elsewhere: Reading African American Classics in the Age of Obama

Harvard University Press
May 2010
192 pages
5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
no illustrations
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674050969

Robert B. Stepto, Professor of English, African American Studies, and American Studies
Yale University

In this series of interlocking essays, which had their start as lectures inspired by the presidency of Barack Obama, Robert Burns Stepto sets canonical works of African American literature in conversation with Obama’s Dreams from My Father. The elegant readings that result shed surprising light on unexamined angles of works ranging from Frederick Douglass’s Narrative to W.E.B. Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk to Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.

Stepto draws our attention to the concerns that recur in the books he takes up: how protagonists raise themselves, often without one or both parents; how black boys invent black manhood, often with no models before them; how protagonists seek and find a home elsewhere; and how they create personalities that can deal with the pain of abandonment. These are age-old themes in African American literature that, Stepto shows, gain a special poignancy and importance because our president has lived through these situations and circumstances and has written about them in a way that refreshes our understanding of the whole of African American literature.

Stepto amplifies these themes in four additional essays, which investigate Douglass’s correspondence with Harriet Beecher Stowe; Willard Savoy’s novel Alien Land and its interracial protagonist; the writer’s understanding of the reader in African American literature; and Stepto’s account of his own schoolhouse lessons, with their echoes of Douglass’ and Obama’s experiences.

Table of Contents

  • Part One: The W.E.B. Du Bois Lectures
    • Introduction
    • 1. Frederick Douglass, Barack Obama, and the Search for Patrimony
    • 2. W.E.B. Du Bois, Barack Obama, and the Search for Race: School House Blues
    • 3. Toni Morrison, Barack Obama, and Difference
  • Part Two
    • Introduction
    • 4. A Greyhound Kind of Mood
    • 5. Sharing the Thunder: The Literary Exchanges of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Bibb, and Frederick Douglass
    • 6. Willard Savoy’s Alien Land: Biracial Identity in a Novel of the 1940s
    • Afterword: Distrust of the Reader in Afro-American Narratives
  • Notes
  • Index
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The Making of Racial Sentiment: Slavery and the Birth of The Frontier Romance

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2011-04-04 02:04Z by Steven

The Making of Racial Sentiment: Slavery and the Birth of The Frontier Romance

Cambridge University Press
August 2006
256 pages
Dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
Weight: 0.55 kg
Hardback ISBN: 9780521865395
Paperback ISBN: 9780521073042
Adobe eBook Reader ISBN: 9780511239465
Mobipocket eBook ISBN: 9780511247484

Ezra Tawil, Associate Professor of English
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

The frontier romance, an enormously popular genre of American fiction born in the 1820s, helped redefine ‘race’ for an emerging national culture. Ezra Tawil argues that the novel of white-Indian conflict provided authors and readers with an apt analogy for the problem of slavery. By uncovering the sentimental aspects of the frontier romance, Tawil redraws the lines of influence between the ‘Indian novel’ of the 1820s and the sentimental novel of slavery, demonstrating how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin ought to be reconsidered in this light. This study reveals how American literature of the 1820s helped form modern ideas about racial differences.


  • Introduction: toward a literary history of racial sentiment
  • 1. The politics of slavery and the discourse of race, 1787–1840
  • 2. Remaking natural rights: race and slavery in James Fenimore Cooper’s early writings
  • 3. Domestic frontier romance, or, how the sentimental heroine became white
  • 4. ‘Homely legends’: the uses of sentiment in Cooper’s Wept of Wish-Ton-Wish
  • 5. Stowe’s vanishing Americans: ‘Negro’ inferiority, captivity, and homecoming in Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • 6. Captain Babo’s cabin: racial sentiment and the politics of misreading in Benito Cereno
  • Index.
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Minstrel passing: Citizenship, race change, and motherhood in 1850s America

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States, Women on 2011-03-25 04:02Z by Steven

Minstrel passing: Citizenship, race change, and motherhood in 1850s America

Saint Louis University
116 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3383188
ISBN: 9781109452945

Roshaunda D. Cade, Writing Coordinator, Academic Resource Center
Webster University, St. Louis, Missouri

A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Saint Louis University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the egree of Doctor of Philosophy

This dissertation explores how mixed race slave mothers in American literature of the mid-Nineteenth Century combine the performances of blackface minstrelsy and racial passing in order to perform minstrel passing and access the freedoms of citizenship. Minstrel passing seeks to gain the advantages of the other through performances of deception, and it gains more liberties for the performer than either passing or minstrelsy do alone. While minstrel passing does not grant freedom, it grants the freedom to behave like and be treated as a citizen. During this era, motherhood defined female citizenship. But instead of solely resigning women to the domestic sphere, motherhood emboldens women to try things they have never done before. For these slave women, motherhood pushes them to seek the benefits of citizenship.

I argue that in the following the texts, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Harriet Beecher Stowe; Clotel (1853), William Wells Brown; The Bondwoman’s Narrative (2002), Hannah Crafts; Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894), Mark Twain, these bids for citizenship happen largely through the acts of blackface minstrelsy, racial passing, and minstrel passing. Because these performances privilege self-definition, they become tools in the feminist arsenal of autonomy and create space for feminist citizenship. Each of these novels deals with mixed race slave mothers minstrel passing their way into freedom. Additionally, the complexity of the minstrel passing situations intensifies in each novel, revealing the complicated nature of the mid-Nineteenth Century moment.

The mid-century collision of increasingly confusing racial definitions, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, the emergence of blackface minstrelsy as a national form of entertainment, and the Women’s Rights Movement created a unique atmosphere for American women, black and white. To that end, the 1850s offered a variety of ways for women to accommodate citizenship. I maintain that this era created a space for mixed race slave mothers to perform racial deception, in order to exercise autonomy and define their own spheres, and find the freedom to enjoy the privileges of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness inherent in U.S. citizenship.


    • Introduction
    • Stowe’s Search for Mother
    • Accidental Feminism
    • Citizenship
    • Eliza, George, and Harry: Minstrel Trio
    • Conclusion
    • Introduction
    • Growing up with Currer
    • Althesa’s Attempts at American Liberty
    • Clotel’s Migration from Black Female Slave to Free White Man
    • Conclusion
    • Introduction
    • Searching for Mother
    • White Womanhood
    • Othermothering
    • Little Orphan Hannah
    • Conclusion; or, White Womanhood Revisited
    • Introduction
    • Mark Twain and Motherhood
    • Privilege, Citizenship, and Race
    • Roxy as Racial Passer
    • Roxy as Blackface Minstrel
    • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Vita Auctoris

Purchase the dissertation here.

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The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily The Nation Got Into An Uproar

Posted in Anthologies, Books, History, Slavery, United States on 2009-11-14 05:51Z by Steven

The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily The Nation Got Into An Uproar

Northeastern University Press
University Press of New England
2002 (originally published in 1853)
224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/2″
EAN: 978-1-55553-545-2

William G. Allen, Professor of Classics
New York Central College

Mary King

Louisa May Alcott

Edited by

Sarah Elbert, Professor Emerita of History
The State University of New York, Binghamton

A compilation of the explosive reactions to interracial love and marriage in antebellum America.

In 1853, William G. Allen, the “Coloured Professor” of Classics at New York Central College, became engaged to Mary King, a student at the coeducational, racially integrated school and daughter of a local white abolitionist minister. Rumors of their betrothal incited a mob of several hundred men armed with “tar, feathers, poles, and an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails.” Allen and King narrowly escaped with their lives, married in New York City, and then fled as fugitives to England and Ireland.

Their love story and brave resistance were recorded in engrossing detail by Allen in two pamphlets-The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into An Uproar (1853) and A Short Personal Narrative (1860). Reproduced here in their entirety, Allen’s forthright, eloquent, and ironic accounts, which include excerpts from abolitionist and anti-abolitionist newspaper reports about the incident, drew renewed threats against the exiled pair as well as support from the couple’s circle of antislavery friends and allies, a diverse group including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, Reverend Samuel J. May, and George Thompson.

The experiences related by Allen vividly illustrate the rampant fears of “amalgamation” that sparked violent protests in antebellum America. He also reveals white abolitionists’ contradictions regarding mixed-race relationships. Also contained in this volume is Louisa May Alcott’s M.L., a fictional tale of interracial love based on her familiarity with the Allen-King episode through her abolitionist uncle, the Reverend Samuel J. May. Alcott’s story was refused by The Atlantic magazine because, she said, it “might offend the dear South.”

An insightful introduction by editor Sarah Elbert places the writings within a historical and cultural context. She details William G. Allen’s notable career as a graduate of the Oneida Institute and as an active abolitionist in the network reaching from New York’s North Star Country through Boston, Canada, England, and Ireland. In exile, William and Mary King Allen, important members of the trans-Atlantic movement, continued their struggle for “free association” and supported their family by teaching poor children in London.

Read the entire book here or here.

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Creole Crossings: Domestic Fiction and the Reform of Colonial Slavery

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-11-13 04:47Z by Steven

Creole Crossings: Domestic Fiction and the Reform of Colonial Slavery

Cornell University Press
254 pages, 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-0-8014-4384-8 

Carolyn Vellenga Berman
Department of Humanities
The New School, New York

The character of the Creole woman—the descendant of settlers or slaves brought up on the colonial frontier—is a familiar one in nineteenth-century French, British, and American literature. In Creole Crossings, Carolyn Vellenga Berman examines the use of this recurring figure in such canonical novels as Jane Eyre, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Indiana, as well as in the antislavery discourse of the period. “Creole” in its etymological sense means “brought up domestically,” and Berman shows how the campaign to reform slavery in the colonies converged with literary depictions of family life.

Illuminating a literary genealogy that crosses political, familial, and linguistic lines, Creole Crossings reveals how racial, sexual, and moral boundaries continually shifted as the century’s writers reflected on the realities of slavery, empire, and the home front. Berman offers compelling readings of the “domestic fiction” of Honoré de Balzac, Charlotte Brontë, Maria Edgeworth, Harriet Jacobs, George Sand, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and others, alongside travel narratives, parliamentary reports, medical texts, journalism, and encyclopedias. Focusing on a neglected social classification in both fiction and nonfiction, Creole Crossings establishes the crucial importance of the Creole character as a marker of sexual norms and national belonging.

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The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Antislavery Fiction

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, Social Science, United States, Women on 2009-11-03 19:27Z by Steven

The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century Antislavery Fiction

Rutgers University Press
202 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-3481-7
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-3482-4

Eve Allegra Raimon, Professor, Arts & Humanities
University of Southern Maine

Since its inception, the United States has been intensely preoccupied with interracialism. The concept is embedded everywhere in our social and political fabric, including our sense of national identity. And yet, in both its quantitative and symbolic forms, interracialism remains an extremely elusive phenomenon, causing policy makers and census boards to wrangle over how to delineate it and, on an emblematic level, stirring intense emotions from fear to fascination. In The “Tragic Mulatta” Revisited, Eve Allegra Raimon focuses on the mixed-race female slave in literature, arguing that this figure became a symbolic vehicle for explorations of race and nation-both of which were in crisis in the mid-nineteenth century. At this time, judicial, statutory, social, and scientific debates about the meaning of racial difference (and intermixture) coincided with disputes over frontier expansion, which were never merely about land acquisition but also literally about the “complexion” of that frontier. Embodying both northern and southern ideologies, the “amalgamated” mulatta, the author argues, can be viewed as quintessentially American, a precursor to contemporary motifs of “hybrid” and “mestizo” identities. Where others have focused on the gendered and racially abject position of the “tragic mulatta,” Raimon reconsiders texts by such central antislavery writers as Lydia Maria Child, William Wells Brown, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Wilson to suggest that the figure is more usefully examined as a way of understanding the volatile and shifting interface of race and national identity in the antebellum period.

Read an excerpt here.

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