Synopses & Reviews
This first and only novel by Anna E. Dickinson, a well-known 19th-century orator, abolitionist, and advocate of racial equality and women's rights, attracted tremendous interest when it first appeared in the fall of 1868, and was enthusiastically endorsed by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Set in the midst of the Civil War, this controversial work of fiction traces the tragic history of an interracial marriage, which is doomed to disaster by the intolerance of a northern society that refuses to accept racial equality. The central love story provoked strong reactions from supporters and critics alike. Dickinson's friends praised the power of her tale and the poignancy of the lovers' fate, while some critics voiced disgust at the very notion of miscegenation. To portray such a relationship only three years after the Civil War was to many an act of remarkable audacity.
Though the work will never be praised as a masterful literary creation, its themes of racial tension and justice have given it enduring value. Also lending the story interest are Dickinson's impassioned descriptions of two infamous historical incidents - the terrible New York City Draft Riots of July 1863 and the storming of Fort Wagner by black troops of the famed 54th Massachusetts regiment. Even more important is the glimpse she provides into the conflicted attitudes of average white Northern citizens toward blacks just after the War. A scene on a Philadelphia streetcar depicting the mixed reactions of the passengers to a confrontation between a drunken white bigot and a wounded black soldier seems to forecast the Rosa Parks bus incident and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement almost one hundred years later.
With an interesting and informative introduction by J. Matthew Gallman (Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era, Gettysburg College), this new edition of a unique work long out of print will be welcome in courses on African American and American history.
This first and only novel by Anna E. Dickinson, the celebrated 19th-century orator, abolitionist, and advocate of racial equality and women's rights, attracted tremendous interest when it first appeared in the fall of 1868, and was enthusiastically endorsed by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Set in the midst of the Civil War, the controversial plot traces the tragic history of an interracial marriage doomed to disaster.