Love and Marriage in Early African America

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Love and Marriage in Early African America brings together a remarkable range of folk sayings, rhymes, songs, poems, letters, lectures, sermons, short stories, memoirs, and autobiographies. Spanning over 100 years, from the slave era to the New Negro Movement, this extraordinary collection contradicts or nuances established notions that slavery fractured families, devalued sexual morality, distorted gender roles, and set in motion forces that now produce dismal and dangerous domestic situations. A culmination of twenty years of diligent research by noted scholar Frances Smith Foster, this anthology features selections on love and courtship, marriage, marriage rituals, and family. A compelling introduction places the primary texts in their social and literary context. A bibliography offers suggestions for further reading.

This volume includes materials by well known writers such as Frances E. W. Harper, Charles Chesnutt, and Alice Dunbar Nelson, but the majority of works are previously unknown or difficult-to-access materials. Many provide startling contrasts to representations in canonical literature. For example, “Patrick Brown’s First Love” is a radical alternative to Frederick Douglass’s “The Heroic Slave,” and Thomas Detter’s “The Octoroon” replaces the traditionally tragic mulatto trope with a female protagonist who shocks and awes. Love and Marriage in Early African America also changes our ideas about the relationship between religion and politics in early African America by featuring texts from the Afro-Protestant press; that is, the publishing organizations, writers, and reading groups under the direct auspices of, or publicly associated with, Afro-Protestant churches.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“These selections not only enable a new reading of the works of well-known authors . . . but they also enrich our understanding of how African American men and women, enslaved and ‘free,’ imagine gender roles and relations as they ‘encounter the world's troubles’ . . . Foster’s project is a moving testament to the importance of historical recovery.”—Legacy

“Rewarding . . . Foster’s anthology, Love and Marriage in Early African America, affords readers an unprecedented view of heterosexual courtship and marriage in the African American community, and it is especially important in its contribution to our knowledge of African American writing before the Civil War.”—American Literature

"This is one of those books that readers will find difficult to put down no matter how familiar they are with the literature. General readers and scholars alike will find much to admire ponder, and even smile at . . . . A rich treasure trove." —Journal of African American History

“Frances Smith Foster’s Love and Marriage in Early African America is a stunning reply to the pre-modern discourse concerning race and the emotive black body. . . . From the perhaps surprising evidence that Phillis Wheatley ‘did have a love life,’ to Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s passionate poems of ‘lowly life,’ to the. . . verse and fiction of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Pauline Hopkins, to the letters and ‘autobiographical accounts’ of slavery, resistance, and loss, Love and Marriage in Early African America is a trove of all-but-forgotten and canonical writings about how, to paraphrase Toni Morrison, black people remained whole in a world that wanted them in pieces.”—African American Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555536770
  • Publisher: Northeastern University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2007
  • Series: Northeastern Library of Black Literature
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

FRANCES SMITH FOSTER is Charles Howard Candler Professor of English and Women’s Studies and Chair of the English Department at Emory University. Her previous publications include Witnessing Slavery: The Development of the Ante-Bellum Slave Narrative, and Written By Herself: Literary Production by African American Women Writers, 1746–1892. Professor Foster has edited or co-edited numerous volumes, including, most notably, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature and The Oxford Companion to African American Literature.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: By Way of an Open Letter to My Sister

What’s You Lookin’ at Me Fer?
Love Is Jes a Thing o’ Fancy
You Loves Yo’ Gal?
Creole Candio,
One Sweet Kiss
On Friendship - Phillis Wheatley (1769)
Philis’ Reply - Phillis Wheatley (1774)
Behave Yourself, from Freedom’s Journal (1827)
Lines to My——— - George Moses Horton (1843)
Courting in Connecticut, from Provincial Freeman (1855)
To Annie, from the Pacific Appeal (1862)
To Miss W - A. I[slay] Walden (1873?)
Dedicated to a Young Lady - A. I[slay] Walden (1873)
A Negro Love Song - Paul Laurence Dunbar (1895)
Dinah Kneading Dough - Paul Laurence Dunbar (1899)
Show Your Love - James E. McGirt (1901)
The Parting Kiss - Jos. D. H. Heard (1901)
Jessie and I - Timothy Thomas Fortune (1905)
Kiss Me Again - Samuel Alfred Beadle (1912)
Love’s Lament - Olive Ward Bush-Banks (1914)
Filled with You - Olive Ward Bush-Banks (1920)

Does You Lak Strawberries? - Anonymous
W’en I Wus a “Roustabout,” - Anonymous
She Hug Me - Anonymous
A Letter - Anonymous
You Nasty Dog! - Anonymous
Pretty Liddle Pink - Anonymous
Is It So? from Freedom’s Journal (1827)
Stanzas, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
To Eliza - George Moses Horton (1829)
Forget Me Not - Ann Plato (1841)
Farewell to Frances - George Moses Horton (1865)
A Love Song - John Willis Menard (1879)
A Double Standard - Frances E[llen] W[atkins] Harper (1893)
Sence You Went Away - James Weldon Johnson (1900)
Regret - Olive Ward Bush-Banks (1914)
Violets - Alice Dunbar Nelson (1917)
The Heart of a Woman - Georgia Douglas Johnson (1918)

A Christmas Sketch - Mrs. M. B. Lambert (1882)
Violets - Alice Dunbar Nelson (1895)
“There Was One Time!” - Jessie Fauset (1917)

From Phillis Wheatley to Obour Tanner (1773)
From Harriet to Freedom’s Journal (1827)
From Amelia to Freedom’s Journal (1827)
From Criticus to Freedom’s Journal (1827)
From Tom Little to Freedom’s Journal (1827)
From Henry H. Garnet to “Dear Friend” (1837)
From William H. Wormley to Catto (1860)
From Addie Brown to Rebecca Primus (1859–1867)
Autobiographical Accounts
William Grimes, from Life of William Grimes (1855)
James Williams, from Life and Adventures of James Williams (1893)
Fannie Berry, from Federal Writers Project (ca. 1937)

Aurore Pradère - Anonymous
W’en I Goes to Marry - Anonymous
Lines, Written on hearing a beautiful Young Lady express a determination to live an Old Maid, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
A Young Lady’s Soliloquy, from the Christian Recorder (1864)
The Cheerless Condition of Bachelorship, George Moses Horton (1865)
Report, Frances E[llen] W[atkins] Harper (1867)
Advice to Girls, Frances E[llen] W[atkins] Harper (1868)
The Young Man’s Comforter, A. I[slay] Walden (1873)
One to Love, A. I[slay] Walden (1873)

A Woman and an Angel, from Provincial Freeman (1855)
The Two Offers, Frances Ellen Watkins [Harper] (1859)

On Marriage, from The Doctrines and Discipline of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1817)
A Bachelor’s Thermometer, from Freedom’s Journal (1827)
The Old Maid’s Diary, from Freedom’s Journal (1827)
“Sic a Wife,” from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
An Unmarried Woman, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
A Gold Repeater, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
Lewis White Advertises, from Freedom’s Journal (1829)
Two School Girls - Ann Plato (1841)
A Bachelor Advertises, from Provincial Freeman (1855)
Matrimony, from Repository of Religion and Literature (1859)
To Avoid a Bad Husband, from the Christian Recorder (1861)
The Pleasures of Single Life, from the Pacific Appeal (1864)
Young Ladies of To-Day, from the Christian Recorder (1864)
How to Make Bean Soup, from the Christian Recorder (1865)
Yoked Unequally, from the Christian Recorder (1876)
Bigamy, from Life and Adventures of James Williams (1893)

Wedding Colors - Anonymous
Slave Marriage - Anonymous
Written in a Bride’s Album - A[fred] G[ibbs] Campbell (1883)
Marriage - Mary Weston Fordham (1897)

Conversation, from Southern Workman (1895)

Miseries of an Engaged Man, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
Miseries of an Engaged Woman, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
Getting Married without Knowing How It Was to Be Done, from the Christian Recorder (1861)
Marriage of Rev. John Beckett to Miss Kate Campbell, from the Christian Recorder (1876)

Autobiographical Accounts
Thomas Tompkins, from Freedom’s Journal
William Grimes, from Life of William Grimes
Harriet Jacobs, from Incidents in the Life
When Two of the Slaves, Harriett McFarlin Payne, from Rawick,
American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (ca. 1937)
The War Went On, from Ophelia Settle Egypt, Unwritten History of Slavery
Iffen Any of the Slaves, Aunt Virginia Bell from Rawick, American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (ca. 1937)
I Had a Nice Weddin’, Sarah Allen, from Rawick, American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (ca. 1937)
De Way Dey Done, Jeff Calhoun, from Rawick, American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (ca. 1937)

Three Months Married – Anonymous
To a Lady on the Death of Her Husband - Phillis Wheatley (1772)
To the Bride, from Freedom’s Journal (1828)
Connubial Felicity - George Moses Horton (1845)
The Fugitive’s Wife - Frances Ellen Watkins [Harper] (1857)
The Old Couple, from the Christian Recorder
The Wife’s Invocation - John Menard Willis (1879)
To Elder T. Wellington Henderson, from the Christian Recorder (1879)
Dearest - Robert C. O. Benjamin (1883)
To My Absent Wife - A[fred] G[ibbs] Campbell (1883)
To Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Johnson - Frances E[llen] W[atkins] Harper (1886)
Tired - Fenton Johnson (1919)

Dialogue between a Newly Married Couple, from Provincial Freeman (1855)
Mr. Pepper’s Wife, from Provincial Freeman (1855)
Patrick Brown’s First Love, from the Anglo-African Magazine (1859)
Anecdotal: An Old and True Friend, from the Christian Recorder (1869)
Octoroon Slave of Cuba - Thomas Detter (1871)
The Wife of His Youth - Charles W. Chesnutt (1899)
Bro’r Abr’m Jimson’s Wedding - Pauline E. Hopkins (1901)

Whisper to a Wife, from Colored American (1837)
The Intemperate Husband, from Colored American (1837)
Tell Your Wife, from Pacific Appeal (1862)
A Chapter for Young Husbands, from the Christian Recorder (1864)
A Tin Wedding, from the Christian Recorder (1876)
A Bereaved Wife, from the Christian Recorder (1880)

From Jane Stephens to Freedom’s Journal (1827)
From James Stephens to Freedom’s Journal (1827)
From George Pleasant to Agnes Hobbs (1833)
From Marie Perkins to Husband (1852)
From Abream Scriven to Wife (1858)
From Harriet Newby to Dangerfield Newby (1859)
From Harriet Newby to Dangerfield Newby (1859)
From Ann to Husband (1864)
Autobiographical Accounts
Jarena Lee, from Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee (1836)
Lunsford Lane, from Narrative of Lunsford Lane (1848)
Henry Bibb, from The Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb (1849)
Josiah Henson, from Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life (1858)
Noah Davis, from A Narrative of the Life of Rev. Noah Davis (1859)
J. D. Green, from The Narrative of the Life of J. D. Green (1864)
Elizabeth Keckley, from Behind the Scenes (1868)

Daughter’s Inquiry - Ann Plato (1841)
Our Family Tree - Joseph Cephas Holly (1853)
My Child, from Provincial Freeman (1855)
Old Grimes’ Son, from Life of William Grimes (1855)
The Home for Me, from the Christian Recorder (1872)
The Lonely Mother - Fenton Johnson (1916)

Charles and Clara Hayes - Mrs. Lucie S. Day (1853)
Dialogue Between a Mother and Her Children on the
Precious Stones – Mrs. Sarah Douglas (1859)
The Voice of the Rich Pudding – Gertrude D[orsey] Browne (1907)

From John H. Rapier to His Son John (1857)
From Parker Smith to “My dear Sir” (1861)
From Rebecca Primus to Parents and Sister (1976)
From Dave Waldro to Cousin (1867)
Information Wanted, from the Christian Recorder (1864–1893)
Information Wanted from the Christian Recorder, January 6, 1893 (1893)

The Dying Bed of a Mother, from Colored American (1837)
The Use of Grandmothers, from the Christian Recorder (1864)
Aunt Jennie the Old Maid, from the Christian Recorder (1873)

Autobiographical Accounts
Samuel Ringgold Ward, from Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro (1855)
Williams Grimes, from Life of William Grimes (1855)
Thomas Jones, from Narrative of a Refugee Slave (1857)
James Williams, from Life and Adventures of James Williams (1893)
My Mother as I Recall Her, Rosetta Douglass Sprague (1900)
Of the Passing of the First-Born, W. E. B. DuBois (1901)

Suggestions for Further Reading

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    anthology on African American personal and family relationships throughout American history

    Foster's research for this anthology 10 years in the making carried her widely. She found examples of African American love and marriage in songs, letters, stories, poems, memoirs, lectures, sermons, folk sayings, oral history, and autobiographies. This interrelated material from a wide diversity of sources is organized into the natural flow of feelings and types of relationships between men and women. The first chapter is In Love - With Love the second, Whether to Marry - and Who? followed by Proposals and Vows, then Married Life with the final section of on generations of a family titled Family Trees Rooted - in Love. Within each chapter, the selections are grouped according to kind all the poems and excerpts together, excerpts from longer writings such as stories together, etc. The selections in each grouping are arranged chronologically following any anonymous writings when applicable coming first. The bulk of the writings are from the 1830s or so to the mid 1930s with the majority from after the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. A small number are from the Colonial era. While giving attention to a little-covered theme running through African American life from its earliest days, as Foster notes in her introductory essay, the anthology coincidentally brings to notice little-known African American writers and discloses the presence of an established African American printing business. Thus, the anthology is also in some measure a collection of uncommon African American literature for studies in this area and it casts light on aspects of African American economic activity not widely known about. The lengthy bibliography is notably useful for further pursuit of all the major and secondary subjects entailed in the anthology.

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