The Garies and their Friends
In this novel set in antebellum America, the Garies—a white southerner, his mulatto slave-turned-wife, and their two children—have moved to Philadelphia from Georgia.
Originally published in London in 1857, The Garies and Their Friends was the second novel published by an African American and the first to chronicle the experience of free blacks in the pre-Civil War northeast. The novel anticipates themes that were to become important in later African American fiction, including miscegenation and "passing," and tells the story of the Garies and their friends, the Ellises, a "highly respectable and industrious coloured family."
"It is remarkable that, even as the study of African American literature and culture has become central to any number of projects within American intellectual life, so little attention has been given a work as significant as Frank J. Webb's The Garies and Their Friends."—from the 1997 introduction by Robert Reid-Pharr
About the Authors
Frank J. Webb, an African American born and raised in antebellum Philadelphia, worked during the late 1820s for Freedom's Journal, the first newspaper published by African Americans, and was a regular contributor to The New Era: A Colored American National Journal in the early 1870s. Robert Reid-Pharr is an assistant professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University.
That this American classic does not occupy a prominent place in the literary canon is not really a mystery, though it is a shame. Its subject is not the almost invisible flaw in a golden bowl carved from pristine crystal, but the visible fracture in our American ideal; its scarlet letter is the color of our skin.
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