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The Washington Post"Far from fussing over chipped china, the novella goes to the heart of the great American problem of race... This is a provocative subject, and the publisher has provided much useful material for help in understanding it: an introduction (by Paul R. Petrie), footnotes and a sheaf of appendices, including one that links 'An Imperative Duty' to a subgenre of 19th-century fiction: 'The Tragic Mulatta.' There is a big difference between other 'Tragic Mulatta' novels and this one, however: The other writers played the central situation for shock value, whereas Howells made it into art."
— Dennis Drabelle