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Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century$
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Nazera Sadiq Wright

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040573

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040573.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 29 June 2022

Youthful Girls and Prematurely Knowing Girls

Youthful Girls and Prematurely Knowing Girls

Antebellum Black Girlhood

(p.60) 2. Youthful Girls and Prematurely Knowing Girls
Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century

Nazera Sadiq Wright

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the first writings of black women about girlhood during the antebellum era, with particular emphasis on the trope of the self-reliant black girl in the face of adversity. After reviewing representations of black girlhood in early American children's print culture, the chapter turns to some of the first short stories and full-length books by black women that centered on the lives of black girls. Focusing on the work of Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, and Maria W. Stewart along with an abolitionist text imported from England, it considers how black women writers distinguished between youthful girlhood and knowing girlhood to challenge the prevailing attitude on southern plantations that black girls were valuable solely for their future fecundity and economic potential. By revealing the qualities and behaviors exhibited by black girls across literary genres, black women writers showed that black girls were capable of seeking their own fate.

Keywords:   black women, black girlhood, short stories, black girls, Harriet Jacobs, Harriet Wilson, Maria W. Stewart, black women writers, youthful girlhood, knowing girlhood

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