Synopses & Reviews
A riveting collection of letters written at the time of the Civil War that chronicle the lives of two African American women from New England: one who went to the South to found a school, the other a domestic servant who stayed in the North, in New York and New England.
Rebecca Primus, the daughter of a prominent black Hartford family, was one of the many women who traveled south after the Civil War to teach the newly freed men and women. She was sent by the Hartford Freedmen's Aid Society to Royal Oak, Maryland, where she helped to found a school later named in her honor, the Primus Institute.
Addie Brown--a bright, spirited, intelligent woman--was a domestic servant who worked in various households in Connecticut and New York.
The letters Rebecca Primus wrote to her family provide a rare glimpse into the life and thoughts of a dedicated nineteenth-century New England black woman; they reveal her confrontations with southern prejudice, her struggles to educate the freedmen, the practical effects of the politics of Reconstruction, and such everyday events of life in Royal Oak as her long-running battle with the postmaster about the slow delivery of her mail, and the wedding of a seventy-two-year-old woman to an eighteen-year-old Dutchman that set the whole town talking.
During this time, she received more than one hundred letters from Addie Brown--letters that reveal another side of black life. Addie writes of her struggles to make a living, of her difficult economic circumstances in New England, of her self-education, of her growing political consciousness (she refuses to sit in the colored seats at a white church and skips a town event because of a blackface minstrel performer), and of her love for Rebecca, which is complicated by the courtship of various men whom she feels compelled to consider for reasons of economic security.
The letters of Rebecca Primus and Addie Brown bring us closer to the rich social, political, and personal lives of two spirited, smart women, and take us into a world until now undiscovered. Edited and with annotations throughout by Farah Jasmine Griffin.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 285-286) and index.
About the Author
Farah Jasmine Griffin is a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of "Who Set You Flowin'?": The African-American Migration Narrative, and the coeditor of A Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African-American Travel Writing. She has been the recipient of fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. She lives in Philadelphia.