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163 Notes Introduction 1. Louisa finally confided her story to Lilian Willis Boit in 1905, but twelve years earlier she felt comfortable telling the Jacobses’ friend Julia Wilbur about “their Slave Life & their life since.” Jean Fagan Yellin, Kate Culkin, Scott Korb, eds., The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers, 815, 860 (hereafter HJFP). 2. One comparable collection of personal nineteenth-century African American women’s correspondence is Farah Jasmine Griffin, ed., Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854–1868. 3. Willard B. Gatewood Jr., Aristocrats of Color, 97–98. 4. Genie’s aunt, Elizabeth Susan Webb, also contributed a school farewell to Mary Ann Dickerson’s album. Mary Virginia Wood Album, Francis J. Grimké Papers, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University; Amy Matilda Cassey Album, Martina Dickerson Album, Mary Ann Dickerson Album, Library Company of Philadelphia; Mary Maillard, “‘Faithfully Drawn from Real Life,’” 271–76; Joshua Francis Fisher to [ John] Cadwalader, [1856], box 1, folder 5, Dr. and Mrs. Henry Drinker Collection, Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 5. Rev. Daniel Alexander Payne, Mary Virginia Wood Forten’s spiritual advisor, wrote about her July 9, 1840, death in his “The Triumphant End of Mrs. Mary Virginia Forten,” The Colored American, August 29, 1840; Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Fragile Freedom, 128. 6. Autograph album belonging to Genie Webb, Annie Wood Webb Papers, private collection (hereafter AWWP). 7. HJFP, 859–60, 870. 8. Elite black Washington society, sometimes called the “upper tens” or the “black 400,” were divided between the “old cits,” who had been established in the city for several generations, and the “newcomers,” who might be admitted to inner circles with proper introductions or have coequal status from another city (like Genie Webb’s 164 Notes to Pages 6–7 cousins who arrived in Washington with solid Philadelphia-based credentials: Charlotte Forten Grimké, Annie Purvis, Dr. Charles B. Purvis, Sarah I. Fleetwood, Laura I. Hawkesworth, Evelyn Durham Shaw, Frank J. Webb Jr., and Evangeline Webb). Washington elites were not a cohesive group but a stratified, fractured society made up of a number of cliques, differentiated by what historian Willard Gatewood calls “nuances and subtleties.” What all the “sets” had in common was their distance from, and sense of noblesse oblige toward, the black masses; a belief that their class would ultimately assimilate; and an emphasis on education, family pride, rules of conduct, and respectability . As the nineteenth century closed, intraracial class distinctions hardened and reinforced what literary historian Andrea N. Williams calls class anxiety, the fear of misclassification within black society. Williams explores in the literary fiction of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Paul L. Dunbar, Pauline Hopkins, Charles W. Chesnutt, and W. E. B. Du Bois the “uneasy relationship between racial loyalty and class division within African American communities.” Willard B. Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color, 38– 68; Andrea N. Williams, Dividing Lines, 1–52. 9. Louisa Jacobs wrote personal letters (as opposed to freedmen school reports) to the following: her uncle, John S. Jacobs, 1849; Cordelia Downing, 1870; William Lloyd Garrison, 1873; Ednah Dow Cheney, 1896; Bailey Willis, 1903; Angelina Weld Grimké, 1911; and Archibald Grimké, 1911. HJFP, 169, 744, 749, 822, 857, 867, 868. 10. HJFP, 870, 860. 11. Louisa Jacobs to Genie Webb, December 1, 1901, AWWP. 12. Margo Jefferson, Negroland: A Memoir, 6, 171–72. 13. Louisa Jacobs to Miranda Venning, July 2, 1877, Miranda Venning Autograph Book, Stevens-Cogdell-Sanders-Venning Collection, Library Company of Philadelphia (hereafter SCSVC). Louisa may have learned this adage as a teen from The Book of Good Examples Drawn from Authentic History and Biography; Designed to Illustrate the Beneficial Aspects of Good Conduct, written by John Frost and published in New York and Philadelphia in 1846. She may also have been thinking of Sallie Daffin’s essay “Example Better than Precept,” published in the May 30, 1863, issue of the Christian Recorder. Eric Gardner, Unexpected Places, 143. 14. Louisa Jacobs to Genie Webb, January 20, 1880, AWWP. 15. Louisa Jacobs to Genie Webb, March 19, 1883, AWWP. Here Louisa echoes editor John W. Cromwell of The Advocate (1876–1884), who focused on the obligation of the colored aristocracy to uplift the masses. Gatewood, Aristocrats of Color, 56. 16. Louisa Jacobs to Genie Webb, September 28, 1882, AWWP. Historian Darlene Clark Hine echoes this sentiment when she speaks of “those issues that Black women believed better left unknown, unwritten, unspoken except in whispered tones. Their alarm, their fear, or their Victorian sense of modesty...



Subject Headings

  • Jacobs, Louisa Matilda, 1833-1917 -- Correspondence.
  • Purvis, Annie (Harriet Ann), 1848-1917 -- Correspondence.
  • Webb, Eugenie, 1856-1919 -- Correspondence.
  • African American women -- Correspondence.
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