MATILDA G. THOMPSON
(BIOGRAPHIES AND DATES UNKNOWN)
Julia Colman and Matilda Thompson’s work, The Child’s Anti-Slavery Book: Containing a Few Words about American Slave Children, and Stories of Slave-Life (1859) represents a complex and interesting collection of recovered juvenile abolitionist texts published on the eve of the Civil War. Its three short stories, “Little Lewis: The Story of a Slave Boy,” “Mark and Hasty; or, Slave-Life in Missouri,” and “Aunt Judy’s Story: A Story from Real Life”1 suggest that on the eve of the national strife, Colman and Thompson (about whom no biographical information has surfaced)2 felt confident walking the tightrope as women authors of abolitionist texts that depict slavery as un-Christian and un-American.
Claiming to have their origins in true stories, these sentimental, juvenile pseudoslave-narratives capture the psychological distress that slave children as well as their mothers and fathers experience. Echoing authentic slave narratives such as Frederick Douglass, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Colman and Thompson’s stories describe the conditions of servitude, in particular its violation of family bonds; the events that lead to a child’s awakening of his or her status as a slave; the emotional crisis and ramifications of this awakening; and the process by which the child attains freedom.
Matilda Thompson’s “Mark and Hasty” and Julia Colman’s “Little Lewis” achieve an unparalleled level of complexity in the portrayal of the slave family unit, its rupture, and the stalwart efforts that slave parents make to protect their child’s best interests. “Mark and Hasty” is the only abolitionist text recovered to date that begins with a complete slave family unit: Mark (father), Hasty (mother), and Fanny (daughter). However, both “Mark and Hasty” and “Little Lewis” document the slave mother’s