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Slavery in American Children's Literature, 1790-2010

Paula T. Connolly

Publication Year: 2013

Long seen by writers as a vital political force of the nation, children’s literature has been an important means not only of mythologizing a certain racialized past but also, because of its intended audience, of promoting a specific racialized future. Stories about slavery for children have served as primers for racial socialization. This first comprehensive study of slavery in children’s literature, Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790–2010, also historicizes the ways generations of authors have drawn upon antebellum literature in their own re-creations of slavery. It examines well-known, canonical works alongside others that have ostensibly disappeared from contemporary cultural knowledge but have nonetheless both affected and reflected the American social consciousness in the creation of racialized images.

Beginning with abolitionist and proslavery views in antebellum children’s literature, Connolly examines how successive generations reshaped the genres of the slave narrative, abolitionist texts, and plantation novels to reflect the changing contexts of racial politics in America. From Reconstruction and the end of the nineteenth century, to the early decades of the twentieth century, to the civil rights era, and into the twenty-first century, these antebellum genres have continued to find new life in children’s literature—in, among other forms, neoplantation novels, biographies, pseudoabolitionist adventures, and neo-slave narratives.

As a literary history of how antebellum racial images have been re-created or revised for new generations, Slavery in American Children’s Literature ultimately offers a record of the racial mythmaking of the United States from the nation’s beginning to the present day. 

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Thank you to the many people who have helped me in large and small ways as I worked on this project. To Schley Lyons, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, I am grateful for a Faculty Research Grant and a reassignment of duties leave that allowed me time to work on the manuscript in its early stages. ...

A Note on Usage

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-12

In 1619, after surviving capture and separation from their families, removal from their homelands, and forced transportation across the Atlantic, twenty Africans were sold to newly arrived colonists in Jamestown, Virginia. As the colonies developed, so too did slavery: by 1660, slavery was written into Virginia statute law and within little over a century later, ...

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Chapter 1. Slavery Debates for Children, 1790–1865: Abolitionist Responses

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pp. 13-51

One of the central humanitarian issues of the antebellum period, abolition was also one of the most divisive issues of its time. It was a topic, too, that found expression in a wide range of antebellum literature for children, from poems and magazines to novels and schoolbooks. ...

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Chapter 2. Slavery Debates for Children, 1830–1865: Proslavery Responses

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pp. 52-90

While “North” and “South” are commonly used shorthand markers for antebellum anti- and proslavery sentiment, neither unwaveringly fits its respective designation. As much as Northern abolitionists had varying commitments to immediate emancipation, there were also an uncounted number of Northerners who agreed with slavery ...

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Chapter 3. Reconstructing Slavery, 1865–1919

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pp. 91-133

Following the Civil War, three new amendments to the Constitution seemed to promise much: the Thirteenth abolished slavery; the Fourteenth guaranteed citizenship and equal protection under the law; the Fifteenth provided the right to vote (to black males). ...

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Chapter 4. Conflicting Voices during the Harlem Renaissance Era, 1920–1950

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pp. 134-169

Despite some forays into representations of diversity—such as Lorraine and Jerrold Beim’s picture book Two Is a Team (1945), which shows a friendship between an apparently African American and Anglo-American boy1—children’s literature booklists of mainstream publishers remained firmly entrenched in notions of white superiority during the first half of the twentieth century. ...

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Chapter 5. The Civil Rights Movement and New Narratives, 1951–2010

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pp. 170-209

With its decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case (1954), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned its earlier accommodation to “separate but equal” segregation, yet a decade later only little over two percent of African American children attended desegregated schools in the South (R. Kennedy 899). ...

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pp. 210-212

In Eleanora Tate’s The Secret of Gumbo Grove, that Miss Effie recounts otherwise lost lives to young Raisin Stackhouse who writes them down as a recovered history argues the importance of memory, story, and historical reclamation. History, for Raisin, becomes personal and a means of making sense of her world. ...


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pp. 213-248


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pp. 249-272


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pp. 273-288

E-ISBN-13: 9781609381783
E-ISBN-10: 1609381785
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381776
Print-ISBN-10: 1609381777

Page Count: 302
Illustrations: 16 illustrations
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: paper