December 31, 2007
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Love and Marriage in Early African America

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.

About 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.


“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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