Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings

Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings

Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings

Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their Thoughts, Their Feelings


Black Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life presents selections from the writings of two dozen representative black women leaders of the past century, with a general introduction relating them to their forebears in colonial times and to their descendants in the twentieth century. Each selection is introduced with a biographical headnote, and the book contains a bibliography of works by or about these women and other black women. The selections are grouped in four parts, emphasizing respectively family relationships, religious activities, political and reformist movements, and education.

The women represented in this book comprise a cross section of historically significant black women in the nineteenth century. Ten were born free, eight were freed before the Civil War, and six were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation; eight were born in the North and sixteen in the South. Their names are Annie Louise Burton, Anna Julia Cooper, Fanny Jackson Coppin, Cornelia, Ellen Craft, Silvia Dubois, Elleanor Eldridge, Elizabeth, Charlotte Forten Grimké, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Elizabeth Keckley, Lucy Craft Laney, Jarena Lee, Louisa Picquet, Ann Plato, Nancy Prince, Sarah Parker Remond, Amanda Berry Smith, Maria Stewart, Susie King Taylor, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ida Wells-Barnett, and Fannie Barrier Williams.


Neither a hall of fame for black women nor a narrative of the female side of black history, this volume presents a variety of life experiences of some articulate black women of the nineteenth century. Those included have been selected for their written or recorded observations, stemming from personal events or from participation in organized social or political movements.

Some of the lecturers and writers represented here are widely known, at least by name. The striking oratory of Sojourner Truth, the feats of Harriet Tubman, and the diary kept by Charlotte Forten Grimké have brought these women a measure of renown. Inclusion of less famous women and of materials not readily available shows that insight is not limited to the famous, nor is sensitivity to experience invariably wedded to distinguished achievement. While some of these individuals lived on well into the present century, we have had to omit many whose activities belong to the twentieth centuryrather than the nineteenth. Mary Church Terrell, to cite a single example, made major contributions to American life even following the Second World War.

Many black women of the nineteenth century not included in this book enriched the tapestry of American experience. Among leading women in the arts were Edmonia Lewis, black sculptor whose works achieved a measure of fame in her native land while she maintained her home and studio in Rome, and the concert singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, heralded as "The Black Swan" in America and abroad. Pioneer women physicians included Caroline Still Anderson, daughter of a noted black abolitionist. Numerous black women demonstrated leadership capacities as founders of schools and other social institutions and as organizers of important social movements. Mary Burnett Talbert, for example, played a leading role in southern prison reform. These talented individuals in most instances left only fragmentary written evidence of their attitudes and reflections.

The present study is designed to amplify the historical understanding of American life. Using little-known sources, it reveals a segment of the American people whose story constitutes a distinctive part of this country's history. At the same time it is a study in individuality and diversity. It seeks to fathom the interactions of culture and personality within the special context of black experience in nineteenth-century America. Records prove that . . .

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