Cover

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Half Title, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-viii

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Introduction: The Radical Work of Reading Black Children in the Era of Slavery and Reconstruction

Anna Mae Duane, Katharine Capshaw

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pp. ix-xxvi

In one of the most iconic and controversial moments in African American history, the teenage Phillis Wheatley found her talent and authenticity in doubt. As she tried to secure publication for her remarkable Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (1773), publishers were skeptical that people would “not credi[t] ye performance to be by a Negro.”1 Her youth raised questions that compounded the problems posed by her race, her enslavement, and her gender. ...

Part I: Locating Readers

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1. Conjuring Readers: Antebellum African American Children’s Poetry

Angela Sorby

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pp. 3-21

What was antebellum African American children’s poetry? One answer sounds simple: it was poetry written for, and read by, early nineteenth-century African American children. Such a definition meets twenty-first-century conventional expectations of what counts as children’s literature. As Peter Hunt has pointed out, “Children’s literature is one of the relatively few categories of texts/literature defined by its audience.”1 ...

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2. Free the Children: Jupiter Hammon and the Origin of African American Children’s Literature

Courtney Weikle-Mills

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pp. 22-40

The inclusive approach to African American children’s literature advocated by this volume demands that scholars consider multiple origins for this literature. In identifying Jupiter Hammon’s children’s poetry as the first published writing for African American children by a black author, this essay does not foreclose other histories, which might begin, for instance, with oral stories brought from Africa ...

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3. "Ye Are Builders": Child Readers in Frances Harper’s Vision of an Inclusive Black Poetry

Karen Chandler

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pp. 41-58

Since the emergence of feminist scholarship that has examined neglected and undervalued women’s literature, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper has become one of the most familiar nineteenth-century African American writers. Samples of her poetry, fiction, and speeches now appear in college literature anthologies, and her writing has attracted attention in the fields of English studies, rhetoric, ...

Part II: Schooling, Textuality, and Literacies

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pp. 59-60

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4. Madame Couvent’s Legacy: Free Children of Color as Historians in Antebellum New Orleans

Mary Niall Mitchell

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pp. 61-74

It was something of a jolt to open up a faded ledger from a school in antebellum New Orleans—a book full of letters written by teenage boys as exercises for their English composition class—and suddenly be dropped into a story about antiimmigrant street violence. The boys attended the Couvent School, which was established in 1848 for free children of color living in the downtown section of the city. ...

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5. Innocence in Ann Plato’s and Susan Paul’s Black Children’s Biographies

Ivy Linton Stabell

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pp. 75-93

Ann Plato’s Essays: Including Biographies and Miscellaneous, Pieces in Prose and Poetry (1841) and Susan Paul’s Memoir of James Jackson (1835) are rare texts. Most nineteenth-century renderings of childhood innocence do not recognize, and certainly do not trumpet, the potential of the black child to change the American political and social landscape. Though scholars of antebellum children’s literature are right to observe how pervasive the racial hierarchies ...

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6. A Role Model for African American Children: Abigail Field Mott’s Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano and White Northern Abolitionism

Valentina K. Tikoff

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pp. 94-116

Olaudah Equiano first published his Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano; or, Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself> in London for an audience of white British adults in 1789. Forty years later, Abigail Field Mott and the publisher Samuel Wood produced an abridgment for black American children at the New York African Free School: ...

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7. The Child’s Illustrated Antislavery Talking Book: Abigail Field Mott’s Abridgment of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative for African American Children

Martha J. Cutter

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pp. 117-144

The 1820s and 1830s were decades in which abolitionists first recognized the power of images to motivate social change. According to one essay in The Emancipator in 1836, for example, engravings in antislavery publications “bring before the ‘mind’s eye’ more vividly than the arbitrary signs of the Alphabet can, the reality of the things of which we speak,” turning the viewer into “an eye-witness and partaker ...

Part III: Defining African American Children’s Literature: Critical Crossovers

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8. “Our Hope Is in the Rising Generation”: Locating African American Children’s Literature in the Children’s Department of the Colored American

Nazera Sadiq Wright

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pp. 147-163

In an article titled “Dialogue on the Library: Spoken at the Bethel School on Christmas Night,” published on April 4, 1840, in the Colored American’s column for black children and parents titled the Children’s Department, two men—William and Robert—highlight the benefits of adding a library to a school, stating that “it would mean cultivating a taste for reading amongst us, ...

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9. “No Rights That Any Body Is Bound to Respect”: Pets, Race, and African American Child Readers

Brigitte Fielder

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pp. 164-181

On September 2, 1865, the Christian Recorder reprinted a story by the white minister John Todd, in which a young dog learns to trust a benevolent and knowing “master” despite initial suspicions of cruelty. In this context of the African Methodist Episcopal Church’s weekly publication, the story’s initial framing of a cruel master makes one expect an antislavery message.1 ...

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10. Finding God’s Way: Amelia E. Johnson’s Clarence and Corrine as a Path to Religious Resistance for African American Children

LuElla D’Amico

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pp. 182-200

In 1890, Amelia E. Johnson published Clarence and Corinne; or, God’s Way, a text now widely considered the first African American children’s novel. Johnson is rarely cited in discussions about children’s literature and is often neglected in discussions of influential early African American female writers. This lack of acknowledgment stems, in part, ...

Part IV: Bibliographic Essays

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11. Nuggets from the Field: The Roots of African American Children’s Literature, 1780–1866

Laura Wasowicz

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pp. 203-224

Between 1780 and 1866, an American print culture for children emerged, and within that nascent American children’s press there developed a significant body of literature written for, addressed to, and consumed by African American children, including literate children of freed persons, illiterate slave children, and recently freed young “contraband” soldiers. ...

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12. Children’s Literature in the Christian Recorder: An Initial Comparative Biobibliography for May 1862 and April 1873

Eric Gardner

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pp. 225-246

This biobibliography is simultaneously an exercise in a kind of (literary) microhistory and an argument for the kinds of work scholars of early African American children’s literature must do as we recover a larger range of texts. It builds from a set of premises that recent African Americanists (myself included) have discussed elsewhere. ...

Part V: A Collection of African American Children’s Literature before 1900

The Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano, Abigail Field Mott

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pp. 249-287

Selected Poems

Jupiter Hammon

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pp. 288-293

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Only Once

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pp. 294-295

How often do children beg that their parents will let them do wrong. Their language is “let me go, or do something just once, and I will never ask again.” They never stop to think that what they desire is sinful, and that their parents know better than themselves the consequence of wrong doing. ...

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Selected Essays and Poems

Ann Plato

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pp. 296-301

Julia Ann Pell was born at Montville, Connecticut, in the year 1813. She did not enjoy the privilege of living with her parents when a child. Her age did not exceed eight years, when she was sent to live with a family, where she served as an apprentice until she was eighteen. From thence she went to East Granby and lived some years in the family of the Pastor of that village, ...

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William Saunders; or, Blessings in Disguise

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pp. 302-305

Mrs. Saunders was a poor woman living in a little alley leading out of Belknap street. Her husband had been dead about three years, and since his death she had supported herself and her little William by taking in washing, and by going out to work by the day. ...

The Ten Commandments

Lucy Skipwith

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pp. 306-307

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Dogs and Cats

Harriet Beecher Stowe

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pp. 308-312

And now, with all and each of the young friends who have read these little histories of our dogs, we want to have a few moments of quiet chat about dogs and household pets in general. In these stories you must have noticed that each dog had as much his own character as if he had been a human being. ...

Selected Poems

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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pp. 313-317

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Excerpts from “Fancy Etchings”

F[rances]. E[llen]. W[atkins]. Harper

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pp. 318-322

“A penny for your thoughts.”
I started suddenly as a pair of hands soft and magnetic in their touch, were slid across my eyes.
“Why, Jenny where did you come from? I did not hear you enter.”
“Aunty I rang twice, but getting no answer, I took the liberty to open the gate and enter unushered into your gracious presence.” ....

Lines Dedicated to the Memory of Hattie M. Mowbray

D. M. Hilgrove

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pp. 323-324

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A Story for the Little Folks: The Tiger

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pp. 325-327

My papa and mamma lived in India in a very pretty place among the Himalayan Mountains. All round us were the high mountains with their tops white with snow; but where we lived there was no snow, but beautiful trees, flowers, and green grass. A river ran near the house, that always made a roaring noise tumbling over the stones, and we could see the white foam on it a long way up into the hills, ...

The Mournful Lute; or, The Preceptor’s Farewell

Daniel Alexander Payne

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pp. 328-333

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Excerpt from Clarence and Corinne; or, God’s Way

A[melia]. E. Johnson

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pp. 334-337

Corinne awoke on the Sunday morning following Miss Gray’s visit with a new and strange sensation. This was the day she was to go, for the first time, to the home of the kind young lady whose smiling face was seldom out of her mind now. With a light heart she arose, and began her usual tasks with unusual cheerfulness, ...

My Childhood’s Happy Days

Daniel Webster Davis

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pp. 338-339

Lines Addressed to a Wreath of Flowers, Designed as a Present for Mary Ann

E. Webb

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p. 340

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 341-342

This book began with a question (posed by contributor Brigitte Fielder) about why we don’t see much scholarship on African American children’s literature before 1900. The conversation that followed has taught us much, and we’re grateful to have had such wonderful interlocutors along the way. As we thought about whom we needed to thank for helping this volume come into being, ...

Contributors

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pp. 343-344

Index

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pp. 345-356