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Stolen Childhood, Second Edition

Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America

Wilma King

Publication Year: 2011

One of the most important books published on slave society, Stolen Childhood focuses on the millions of children and youth enslaved in 19th-century America. This enlarged and revised edition reflects the abundance of new scholarship on slavery that has emerged in the 15 years since the first edition. While the structure of the book remains the same, Wilma King has expanded its scope to include the international dimension with a new chapter on the transatlantic trade in African children, and the book's geographic boundaries now embrace slave-born children in the North. She includes data about children owned by Native Americans and African Americans, and presents new information about children's knowledge of and participation in the abolitionist movement and the interactions between enslaved and free children.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Blacks in the Diaspora


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pp. c-c

Title, Copyright Page

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Preface to the Second Edition

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pp. xi-xii

During the intervening years since the publication of Stolen Childhood in 1995, an abundance of scholarship on slavery has appeared and enriched our knowledge about the institution of slavery across geographical regions and about enslaved children who came of age before 1865. For example, it is now known that the number of youthful Africans transported...

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pp. xiii-xvi

The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History’s 71st annual convention provided the first opportunity to discuss this work publicly; however, I canceled the October 18, 1986, presentation because of my father’s sudden death. It is ironic that the funeral services fell on the same afternoon of the scheduled presentation. Afterward, Sheila...

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pp. xvii-xxii

Most slave societies in the New World used massive importations of Africans to maintain their populations. The exception was the United States, which replaced its slave population through births. Less than 1,000,000 adults and children were imported into the country before the transatlantic trade in Africans ended in 1808. Although enslaved...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

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1. “ In the Beginning”: The Transatlantic Tradein Children of African Descent

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pp. 1-29

“Your image has been always riveted in my heart, from which neither time nor fortune have been able to remove it; so that, while the thought of your sufferings have damped my prosperity, they have mingled with adversity and increased its bitterness,” wrote Olaudah Equiano, also known as Gustavus Vassa, as he reflected upon the fate of his beloved...

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2. “ You know I am one man that do love my children”: Slave Children and Youth in the Family and Community

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pp. 30-70

If enslaved girls and boys enjoyed a childhood, it was because their parents and fictive kin made that possible. They stood between children and slaveholders or others who sought to control boys and girls psychologically and break their will to resist. Loving adults tried to protect them from emotional or physical harm regardless of its source. To illustrate...

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3. “ Us ain’t never idle”: The Work of Enslaved Children and Youth

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pp. 71-106

A slave’s life followed an identifiable progression of stages. However, slave-owners truncated segments of the cycle to satisfy themselves, and one of the greatest disruptions was the quantum leap from childhood into the world of work. Frederick Douglass remembered that when he was a youngster, “We were worked in all weather. It was never too hot or...

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4. “ When day is done”: The Play and Leisure Activities of Enslaved Children and Youth

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pp. 107-150

In 1848, Virginia-born Launcelot Minor Blackford built a small cart so he could entertain two visitors by giving them rides. He then “got all the little children who could well do it and hitched them to the carriage [and] made them run around the yard with Alice or Richard on it.” The youngster added, “They seemed to enjoy it very much.” As written, it is...


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pp. 151-168

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5. “ Knowledge unfits a child to be a slave”: Temporal and Spiritual Education

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pp. 169-211

Enslaved children spent some of their leisure time in search of the fundamentals of education, both secular and sacred. Their primary concern with the temporal was literacy, while their interest in the spiritual involved religion, especially Christianity. The extent to which they succeeded depended upon their owners’ attitudes about the intellectual...

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6. “ What has Ever become of my Presus little girl”: The Traumas and Tragedies of Slave Children and Youth

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pp. 212-261

During the 1970s a number of historical studies attempted to shift the attention away from slavery as the dismal abyss of “bull whip days” to a new analysis of the community slaves in which they worked from sundown to sunup to mitigate the worst abuses of bondage. These studies provided a better understanding of how enslaved males and females faced tragedy...

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7. “ Free at last”: The Quest for Freedom

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pp. 262-313

John Parker recorded his hostility and described how, when he only eight years of age, he vented his anger over separation from his family as he walked in shackles to a Richmond, Virginia, slave market. Parker admitted that his hatred of slavery “rankled and festered,” thus making him resentful of freedom in the natural environment. The boy destroyed...

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8. “ There’s a better day a-coming”: The Transitionfrom Slavery to Freedom

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pp. 314-360

The turmoil of the Civil War and the uncertainties of emancipation created a series of quagmires for newly freed boys and girls as they made the transition from slavery to freedom. This chapter examines the ways that many newly freed parents and other loved ones faced the challenges of reuniting families, earning a living, and establishing independence....


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pp. 361-446


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pp. 447-454


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pp. 455-498


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pp. 499-515

E-ISBN-13: 9780253001078
E-ISBN-10: 0253001072
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253355621

Page Count: 544
Illustrations: 17 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: Second Edition
Series Title: Blacks in the Diaspora
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OCLC Number: 747432798
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Stolen Childhood, Second Edition

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slaves -- Emancipation -- United States.
  • African American families -- History -- 19th century.
  • Slavery -- United States -- History -- 19th century
  • Child slaves -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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