Who Writes for Black Children?

African American Children’s Literature before 1900

2017

Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane, Editors

Who Writes for Black Children?

Innovative essays that challenge us to imagine African American children’s literature during the slavery and reconstruction eras

Who Writes for Black Children? unlocks a rich archive of largely overlooked literature read by black children. From poetry written by a slave for a plantation school to joyful “death biographies” of African Americans in the antebellum North to literature penned by African American children themselves, this volume presents compelling new definitions of both African American literature and children’s literature.

Was any literature written specifically for black children living before 1900 in the Western Hemisphere? By posing this question, Capshaw and Duane force a reckoning with a gap in children’s literature studies that is predicated on the assumption that slavery invalidated a space for black children to consume literature.

V. A. Murrenus Pilmaier, University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan

Until recently, scholars believed that African American children’s literature did not exist before 1900. Now, Who Writes for Black Children?opens the door to a rich archive of largely overlooked literature read by black children. This volume’s combination of analytic essays, bibliographic materials, and primary texts offers alternative histories for early African American literary studies and children’s literature studies.

 

 

From poetry written by a slave for a plantation school to joyful “death biographies” of African Americans in the antebellum North to literature penned by African American children themselves, Who Writes for Black Children?presents compelling new definitions of both African American literature and children’s literature. Editors Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane bring together a rich collection of essays that argue for children as an integral part of the nineteenth-century black community and offer alternative ways to look at the relationship between children and adults.

 

Including two bibliographic essays that provide a list of texts for future research as well as an extensive selection of hard-to-find primary texts, Who Writes for Black Children?broadens our ideas of authorship, originality, identity, and political formations. In the process, the volume adds new texts to the canon of African American literature while providing a fresh perspective on our desire for the literary origin stories that create canons in the first place.

 

Contributors: Karen Chandler, U of Louisville; Martha J. Cutter, U of Connecticut; LuElla D’Amico, Whitworth U; Brigitte Fielder, U of Wisconsin–Madison; Eric Gardner, Saginaw Valley State U; Mary Niall Mitchell, U of New Orleans; Angela Sorby, Marquette U; Ivy Linton Stabell, Iona College; Valentina K. Tikoff, DePaul U; Laura Wasowicz; Courtney Weikle-Mills, U of Pittsburgh; Nazera Sadiq Wright, U of Kentucky.

Awards

Best Edited Collection Award from the Children’s Literature Association

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Who Writes for Black Children?

Katharine Capshaw is professor of English at the University of Connecticut and the author of Civil Rights Childhood: Picturing Liberation in African American Photobooks (Minnesota, 2014) and Children’s Literature of the Harlem Renaissance.

Anna Mae Duane is associate professor of English at the University of Connecticut and coeditor of the journal Common-place. She is the author of Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim.

Who Writes for Black Children?

Was any literature written specifically for black children living before 1900 in the Western Hemisphere? By posing this question, Capshaw and Duane force a reckoning with a gap in children’s literature studies that is predicated on the assumption that slavery invalidated a space for black children to consume literature.

V. A. Murrenus Pilmaier, University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan

The volume’s strength lies in the interdisciplinary perspectives it provides on both African American children’s literature and the experiences of African American child-readers.

The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

Striking the hard-to-accomplish balance between in-process scholarly exploration and textbook framing, this collection manages not only to profess but also, impressively, to teach.

MELUS

Who Writes for Black Children? is a compelling collection of scholarly essays and primary material that will be valuable to anyone interested in the history of childhood—or in book history, reading and reception history, materiality, ephemera, or interpretation. Examining poetry, fiction, biography, illustrations, periodicals, friendship albums, pamphlets, marginalia, and more, the collection analyzes the goals and rhetorical strategies of diverse genres published for African American children and (perhaps) read by them.


Journal of American History

Capshaw and Duane’s collection proves that African American children’s literature before 1900 warrants its own extensive critical lens and offers its readers tools to begin that examination process.

Jeunesse Journal

Who Writes for Black Children?

Contents


Introduction: The Radical Work of Reading Black Children in the Era of Slavery and Reconstruction


Anna Mae Duane and Katharine Capshaw


Part I. Locating Readers


1. Conjuring Readers: Antebellum African American Children’s Poetry


Angela Sorby


2. Free the Children: Jupiter Hammon and the Origin of African American Children’s Literature


Courtney Weikle-Mills


3. “Ye Are Builders”: Child Readers in Frances Harper’s Vision of an Inclusive Black Poetry


Karen Chandler


Part II. Schooling, Textuality, and Literacies


4. Madame Couvent’s Legacy: Free Children of Color as Historians in Antebellum New Orleans


Mary Niall Mitchell


5. Innocence in Ann Plato’s and Susan Paul’s Black Children’s Biographies


Ivy Linton Stabell


6. A Role Model for African American Children: Abigail Field Mott’s Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano and White Northern Abolitionism


Valentina K. Tikoff


7. The Child’s Illustrated Antislavery Talking Book: Abigail Field Mott’s Abridgment of Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative for African American Children


Martha J. Cutter


Part III. Defining African American Children’s Literature: Critical Crossovers


8. “Our Hope Is in the Rising Generation”: Locating African American Children’s Literature in the Children’s Department of the Colored American


Nazera Sadiq Wright


9. “No Rights That Any Body Is Bound to Respect”: Pets, Race, and African American Child Readers


Brigitte Fielder


10. Finding God’s Way: Amelia E. Johnson’s Clarence and Corrine as a Path to Religious Resistance for African American Children


LuElla D’Amico


Part IV. Bibliographic Essays


11. Nuggets from the Field: The Roots of African American Children’s Literature, 1780–1866


Laura Wasowicz


12. Children’s Literature in the Christian Recorder: An Initial Comparative Biobibliography for May 1862 and April 1873


Eric Gardner


Part V. A Collection of African American Children’s Literature before 1900


The Life and Adventures of Olaudah Equiano


Olaudah Equiano


Abridged by Abigail Field Mott


Selected Poems


Jupiter Hammon


Only Once


Selected Essays and Poems


Ann Plato


William Saunders; or, Blessings in Disguise


The Ten Commandments


Lucy Skipwith


Dogs and Cats


Harriet Beecher Stowe


Selected Poems


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper


Excerpts from “Fancy Etchings”


F[rances]. E[llen]. W[atkins]. Harper


Lines Dedicated to the Memory of Hattie M. Mowbray


D. M. Hilgrove


A Story for the Little Folks: The Tiger


The Mournful Lute; or, The Preceptor’s Farewell


Daniel Alexander Payne


Excerpt from Clarence and Corinne; or, God’s Way


A[melia]. E. Johnson


My Childhood’s Happy Days


Daniel Webster Davis


Lines Addressed to a Wreath of Flowers, Designed as a Present for Mary Ann


E. Webb


Acknowledgments


Contributors


Index