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Staff View: The curse of caste, or, The slave bride :
Laddas ned direkt. Julia C. Collins, an African American woman living in the small town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Looking at the history of the Christian Recorder, touching upon the rediscoveries of other texts from this and other sources, using the best data and most developed theoretical methods to speculate upon what it all means, they offer us a two-fold experience: a good story and some good information. The introduction is a marvel of information that anticipates, even when they cannot yet answer, virtually every question we might have about the text, its author, and its publication.
And it is written in clear accessible language that makes a story almost as compelling as that it introduces. I intend to use this volume as a primer for how to research early African American print culture and how to evaluate the claims made by others who present rediscovered texts.
By providing us with copious notes and further references, Andrews and Kachun make it easy for us to read more and to reach farther into the past for delight and for instruction. If we pay close attention to the sources they used, the questions they asked, and the interpretations they generated, each of us can conduct her or his own quests into the Christian Recorder and x The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride similar resources that are now accessible. Consequently, what we have to thank these editors for is an immense opportunity as well as many minutes of reading pleasure.
A lot has changed since the s, and we are the fortunate beneficiaries of it all. Collins O n April 16, , Julia C. Collins, a small-town schoolteacher residing in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, hitherto unknown outside her local community, issued a literary manifesto, perhaps the first by an African American woman in the United States.
The newspaper was not only the organ of the largest African American religious denomination in the United States; it was also the closest thing to a national newspaper that black Americans could claim as their own. Although religious in its orientation and outlook, the Recorder, as Collins surely knew, did not ignore the secular world, particularly insofar as the social, political, and cultural interests of African Americans were concerned.
Serious, intellectually active reading would inculcate analysis and reflection, which would in turn inspire the creativity indispensable to becoming a writer. Having posited her reading-based notion of creativity, Collins concluded her essay with remarkable advice. There is a vast work for us to do! We have not a moment to lose!
We have gone through life dreaming too long! We must become aroused, shake xiv The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride off the dead lethargy of inaction, and go to work in earnest! Julia C. Collins, now of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, proposes to write a narrative on the Curse of Cast [sic], through the columns of The Recorder, and as we go to press we have received the commencement, the first chapter, which will appear next week. The impetus of the plot draws Claire ever closer to the discovery of her family, her identity, and her future.
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Chapter 7 of the novel appeared on April 8, , a day before Robert E. A week later President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. By the time Collins had finished thirty chapters of The Curse of Caste, twenty-three state legislatures had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the U. Constitution outlawing slavery. When readers of the Recorder opened the paper a week later, however, their expectation of learning how The Curse of Caste would conclude was frustrated. We hope that her sickness is not unto death. We look forward to a speedy return of health and the continuation of her beautiful story.
Collins, informing us of the death of his estimable wife, Mrs. We know that many of our readers will be greatly disappointed on hearing that they are to be deprived of the pleasure of reading the balance of the beautiful story which she was writing for our paper. Collins, the wife of Stephen C. Collins, departed this life after a short, but severe attack of consumption. The readers of your paper are anxious to see the end of that story. Anxious readers notwithstanding, The Curse of Caste remained unfinished and unheralded outside the pages of the Recorder.
Did Harper write her first novel and serialize it in the Christian Recorder as an act of literary homage to her predecessor?
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- The Curse of Caste; or the Slave Bride?
If so, by the end of , at least one reader of the Recorder seems to have made the connection between Collins and Harper, although not in a favorable way. On December 24, , the Recorder published a lengthy letter from James C. Embry was especially offended by the complicity of African American writers in the promotion of a self-debilitating attitude toward blackness.
Away down in the future centuries, the readers of the xviii The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride history of our times will find in this fact alone a stronger proof of the malevolent character of the slavery which existed in this age, then [sic] in any other conceivable source of information.
Unfortunately, because so few today are aware of Julia C. Scholarship on the history of African American literature is almost totally devoid of reference to Collins or her work. While introducing the novel, the editors also provide the most detailed biographical portrait of Julia C. Collins available.
The annotated edition of the novel itself concludes by presenting the two choices that Collins would likely have weighed as she contemplated the completion of her novel. Reconstructing Julia C. Unfortunately, her stint on the public stage was so brief, and her identity was so wrapped up in her writing, that few additional records of her life and experience survive. Their art, which they still made—as their other contributions—anonymous; refused respect, recognition; lost. Even some of the best-known African American women from the nineteenth century are sparsely documented in the historical record.
Individuals like Julia Collins are even less well known, and precious little of even the basic outlines of their lives xx The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride has been recorded or preserved. Carla L. In addition to her own writings, Collins was mentioned in several letters to the Recorder from African American community members in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where she resided during most of that time. Yet some of the most basic questions about her life remain unanswered.
When and where was she born? Was she born free or enslaved, in the North or the South? Was she light skinned or dark? Where and how did she receive her education?
Julia C. Collins
We do not even know under what name she was born, since Collins was her married name. We know that she was married, but we know little about her husband. She had children, but we do not know with certainty how many, their names, ages, sexes, or anything else about them. As with the elder Gilchrist, Collins would likely have made her own arrangements for renting space and purchasing supplies. Nelson H. In any event, by the paper seems to have become more of a presence, as Enoch Gilchrist was designated an official agent of the Recorder and authorized to collect subscriptions. Evidently she was fulfilled by her work.
Perhaps following her own advice, Julia Collins suspended her budding writing career for the next six months. In essays dated December 2, and December 23, , her location was identified in the Recorder as Oswego; however, her earliest essay in came from Owego, a New York town just north of the Pennsylvania border. It is conceivable that Collins was in only one of these similarly named towns, and the paper misidentified her location.