Into the Mouths of Babes: An Anthology of Children's Abolitionist Literature

By Deborah C. De Rosa | Go to book overview

[MADAME]
(BIOGRAPHY AND DATES UNKNOWN)

The American Reform Tract and Book Society (ARTBS) was a Cincinnati-based sectarian reform group established in 1852.’ In its zealous effort to abolish slavery, the ARTBS published primarily abolitionist books and tracts from which it pledged to “strike no sin from the catalogue of iniquities, because it is popular and powerful. It proposes to deal with slaveholding as with other sins, bestowing upon it attention according to its importance” (Constitution 11). Recognizing the need to include materials for children in its efforts, in 1855, the ARTBS sponsored a contest soliciting “the best manuscript for a religious Anti-Slavery Sunday School book, showing [children and youth] that American chattel slaveholding is a sin against God, and a crime against man, and that it ought to be immediately repented of and abolished” (Frost [v]). Maria Goodell Frost’s work, Gospel Fruits; or, Bible Christianity Illustrated: A Pre’ mium Essay (1856), won the one hundred dollar prize; however, one of the forty-seven contestants included the work of the anonymous “Madame,”2Jemmy and His Mother, A Tale for Children and Lucy; or, the Slave Girl of Kentucky (1858). Madame’s two narratives arouse sympathy for the slave child’s plight and cast both black and white women as rebels who fight, to varying degrees of success, for the child’s best interests.

In “Little Lucy; or, The Slave Girl of Kentucky” (1858),3 Madame depicts how a slave child’s anxious response to losing her mother leads a white woman (Aunty) and her nephew (Arthur) to move from ignorance, to compassion, and to a commitment to abolitionism. Madame uses sentimental strategies to document a slave child’s emotional distress stemming from her efforts to remain with her mother. Although Lucy temporarily prevents the separation through her voice (tears and screams); she considers starving herself because she realizes she is pow

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