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Archive for 'African-American'



Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Harriet Ann Jacobs – Setting and Keeping the Record Straight on Slavery (Contest)
Thursday, June 27th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…Amy Fendley!
*~*~*

Born in 1815, Harriet Ann Jacobs started life as a slave in Edenton, North Carolina but died an author, school founder, “contraband” advocate, and women’s rights champion in Washington D.C. Her autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, chronicles the brutality she endured as an enslaved woman, but also demonstrates her resiliency, thanks to her family connections.

Harriet belonged to a tavern owner’s daughter who disregarded societal rules and taught six-year-old Harriet to read and write. Unfortunately, when the woman died, Harriet’s ownership transferred to John/James Norcom’s family, where Norcom sexually abused her. She began a relationship with a white lawyer named Samuel Sawyer who fathered her son Joseph and her daughter Louisa Matilda. Despite this relationship, Norcom kept sexually harassing Harriet. She ran away in 1835 and hid in her grandmother’s crawl space until she could escape to Philadelphia in 1842.

From there, she moved to New York and worked as a nanny for writer Nathaniel Parker Willis’ family. To thwart Norcom’s attempts to recapture her, the Willises sent Harriet to Massachusetts multiple times where her brother John lived and was an abolitionist.

After traveling to England with Willis and his child, Harriet lived in Rochester NY with abolitionist activist Amy Post, thanks to her brother’s connections with Frederick Douglass. She visited the Willis family back in New York City and agreed to work for them again. Since she was still a fugitive, they purchased her freedom in 1852.

Her brother and Post encouraged her to write down her life story, but Harriet refused.  However, a defense of slavery written by the wife of President John Tyler, finally broke down Harriet’s resistance. She responded to Julia Tyler’s lies that slaves were happy and well-treated with “Letter From A Fugitive Slave.” She sent the testimonial to the New York Daily Tribune, which published it on June 21, 1853. You can read the text here: https://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/jacobs/support16.html.

This letter served as the springboard for Harriet writing her autobiography.

She tried three times to find a publisher for her work here in the US and in England. After the third attempt failed, she was able to buy the plates and had the book printed herself under the pen name Linda Brent in 1861.

During the Civil War in occupied Alexandria, Harriet did relief work with contrabands—slaves who had escaped and found shelter with Union troops. She traveled north and to England several times to promote and raise financial support for this work. In January 1864, Harriet opened the Jacobs School with her daughter to teach the formerly enslaved to read and write. After Sherman’s marches, they took the Jacobs School to Georgia as well. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln and post-reconstruction violence by the Ku Klux Klan forced them to relocate North. They opened boarding houses, first in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then in Washington D.C.

She died on March 7, 1897, and is buried in Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery.

In 2004, Jean Fagan Yellin published a biography entitled Harriet Jacobs: A Life. Yellin also started the Harriet Jacobs Papers Project. which collected nearly one thousand documents written by, to and about Harriet, her brother John, and her daughter Louisa. Through her research which began in the 1980s, Yellin has used documents from various historical societies and archives to successfully defend Harriet’s work as an autobiography, not a work of fiction as some academics had claimed.

Today in the US people are still trying to whitewash the history of slavery, but slave narratives written by men and women like Harriet keep setting the record straight.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon Gift card share in the comments any thoughts this post may have raised for you.

One Breath Away
by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Excerpt:

Tonight, all she cared about was the pleasure she hoped to enjoy again.

Spectral fingers of steam wafted from the water, inviting her own fingers to play between her thighs. The hope of completed self-pleasure shivered agreeably along every nerve.

She closed her eyes and massaged her nether lips, tentatively then confidently. The slow coil of arousal spread from her gut to her core. Her body swooned as desire ebbed and flowed in each vaginal contraction. First her chest tightened, then her belly and finally her groin. She gasped, caught in the grip of longing.

Now. I’ll do it now.

She thumbed her clitoris. Already throbbing with eagerness, the nubbin responded immediately.

Her back arched. Her throat tensed as bliss hardened into a clawing climax. She reached for the release beckoning to her from the edges of consciousness…then fell suddenly, frighteningly onto a piercing stake of pain straight out of hell.

Buylink: https://amzn.to/2u5XQYY

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Mary Jane Patterson — First African American Woman to Receive a B.A. (Contest)
Sunday, May 26th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…BN!
*~*~*

Do pioneers think to themselves, “I want to be first” or does becoming a first happen because they choose not to accept limitations? I believe the latter was the case for Mary Jane Patterson.

Mary Jane was born enslaved September 12, 1840, in North Carolina. After her father gained his freedom, he took the family to Oberlin, Ohio, in the mid-1850s. There, Mary Jane completed preparatory coursework at Oberlin College in 1857. She then enrolled in their four-year program of classical studies for men instead of the two-year course of study for women. She was not the first African American woman to graduate from a college, but this made her the first African American woman documented to have received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1862. She graduated with high honors in 1862 and gave a graduation address on the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi. Think of it. She does this while the Civil War is raging.

After graduation, she moved to Philadelphia and taught at Fanny Jackson Coppin’s Institute for Colored Youth. In 1869, she moved to Washington D.C. and taught at the Preparatory High School for Negroes. In 1871, she became their first colored principal and, except for one year when she served as assistant principal, held the position until 1884 when she resigned but continued to teach. During her tenure, the school grew from less than 50 to 172 students.

Like many African American women of her era, Mary Jane gave time and money to community organizations which focused on uplifting the race. Her involvement in women’s rights led her to help found the Colored Women’s League of Washington, D.C.

In Hallie Q. Brown’s Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction published in 1926, Mary Jane is described as one who “blazed a trail that many have followed and will follow, ever choosing the highest and hardest courses and ever overcoming.” She died at the age of 54 on September 24, 1894.

So once again I wonder if pioneers consciously decide “I want to be the first” or do they have a natural determination that just makes it so? I’d love to hear what you think. For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card share your response in the comments.

One Breath Away by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

Excerpt:

“Why, Miss Hamilton, I do believe you ‘re blushing.” His fingers held hers with a teasing yet possessive grip.

“I am not.” Her words shot out with a force she hadn’t intended. “I mean I don’t blush.”

“No?” A cheeky boyishness winked at her from eyes as dark as chocolate. He leaned down so his breath tickled her earlobe. “Not even if I kissed you behind your ear?”

She shrank back then stared up into the gaze showering her with attention. Her heart beat beneath her breast with a prisoner’s unease. An unease she knew well having once been a prisoner.

“You—you wouldn’t.”

His smile widened into a grin. “Only because I don’t want to embarrass you.”

The amusement in his voice coaxed forth a wet response that Mary clenched her vaginal muscles to stem. She swallowed repeatedly until she found her voice.

“You still haven’t answered me, sir. Of all the women here, why did you pick me?”

“Why not you?”

She blinked. Why not her? The answers swirled through her mind as easily as she and Eban swirled in this waltz.

Why not her?

Because she remained planted among the wallflowers by the time the musicians played the last song at every Safe Haven dance. Because she learned to hang back at the call of “Ladies’ Choice,” forewarned of rejection by the grimaces caused by her approach.

Because unlike desperate-for-a-man Felicity, Mary refused to dance on her back in some dark field just so she wouldn’t be a woman who ain’t been asked.

Ain’t been asked to court.

Ain’t been asked to spoon.

Ain’t been asked to the altar.

And never would be.

*~*~*

Buylink: https://amzn.to/2u5XQYY

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Marie Selika Williams – First African American to Perform at the White House (Contest)
Friday, April 26th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…Colleen C!
*~*~*

Madame Marie Selika Williams was born Marie Smith in 1849 in Natchez, Mississippi. The Natchez area of Mississippi had the largest number of free blacks in the state, but the hardships they faced were no different than those of their enslaved brothers and sisters. Not long after she was born, Marie’s family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where a wealthy patron enabled her to study music. She is also reported to have studied the Italian style of singing with Antonio Farini in Chicago. In the 1860s, she moved to San Francisco, studied with a Signora G. Bianchi, then made her debut in 1876 as a concert soprano. She married fellow concert artist Sampson Williams. They remained married until his death in 1911.

Together with her husband, Marie toured and performed in the US, Europe, and the West Indies. Newspaper accounts proclaimed her a “colored vocalist of rare ability.” She is said to have added “Selika” to her stage name from the heroine of Giacomo Meyerbeer’s 1865 opera, L’Africaine.

Thanks to an introduction from Frederick Douglass, whom President Rutherford B. Hayes had appointed Marshall of the District of Columbia, Marie performed in the Green Room of the White House for Hayes, his wife and others on November 17, 1878. This made her the first African American to perform in the White House. After she performed, her husband also sang. A Washington Post article stated, “The several pieces showed to great advantage the remarkable power, sweetness, and versatility of madame’s voice and accomplishments, the “Staccato Polka” especially proving her worthy of her title as ‘Queen of Staccato.'”

That same year she performed at the New York Academy of Music and in 1879 at New York’s Steinway Hall. She toured Europe twice, first from 1882-1885 then again from 1887-1892. Her performances were warmly received there as well. Benjamin Brawl in his book The Negro Genius quotes this from the Figaro of Paris, “She has a strong voice of depth and compass and trills like a feathered songster. Her range is marvelous, and her execution and style of rendition show perfect cultivation.” During the first tour, she gave a command performance for Queen Victoria in 1883.

In 1893, she performed with her husband at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. In October 1896, she performed at Carnegie Hall with two well-known African American women singers, Flora Baston and Sissieretta Jones.

Besides touring, Marie taught at a music studio which she opened in Cleveland, Ohio. She retired from the stage when her husband died. At age 67 she accepted a teaching position at New York’s Martin-Smith School of Music. She died in New York, aged 87 in 1937.

Once again, I stand in awe of women like Marie Selika Williams. For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share your thoughts in the comments.

One Breath Away
by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more.

From One Breath Away

He really wanted to dance with her. She blinked, speechless. A warning voice protested.

Resist.

Her heart countered.

Surrender.

She firmed her lips, heaved a sigh then accepted his invitation. Felicity’s sputtered shock and Widow Hawthorne’s happy cackle accompanied them to the middle of the dance floor.

He placed his fingertips respectfully but firmly above the rise of her buttocks and held her in place against him. A tickle invaded the wool of her skirt where the tip of his middle finger rested at the head of her crack. Pleasure tripped up her spine and trickled between her thighs. But, from the recesses of remembered experience, a voice of caution persisted.

He wants something, Mary. Beware.

“Why—why do you want to dance with me?”

He smiled with the serpent slyness that probably charmed Eve. “I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”

“I might.”

He turned his head slightly. “Really? Your practiced calm says otherwise.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Practiced calm?”

“The face you present to the world until something touches your heart.” He gestured to his right. “Like when that baby there cried. Your expression changed to one of concern, then changed to one of contentment when his mother satisfied his hunger.”

Mary blew a breath through her mouth. This man was studying her. Really studying her. Should she be flattered or worried?

Buylink: https://amzn.to/2u5XQYY

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Josephine Silone Yates – Another Undaunted Pioneer (Contest)
Monday, March 25th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…Mary McCoy!
*~*~*

It never ceases to amaze me how the African American women of the 19th century did not allow societal limitations to keep them from pursuing and obtaining their dreams. Josephine Silone Yates is another of them. Born in 1859 in New York on Long Island in Suffolk County, by the time Josephine Silone Yates died in 1912 she had been a professor, a writer, a public speaker, an activist, and the first African American woman to head a college science department. Many of the works written on her life focus not only on her work as a pioneering African American female chemist but also as an advocate for early care and education for young African American children.

She attended several schools in her youth and didn’t allow the fact that she was often the only African American student keep her from excelling. At a young age, Josephine showed an aptitude for physiology and physics. By the time she attended the Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, her science teacher was so impressed that he allowed her to do chemistry labs. She graduated from Rogers in 1877 as her class’s valedictorian. Her teachers urged her to go on to university, but she chose the path of teaching instead. In 1879, she graduated from the Rhode Island State Normal School and became the first African American certified to teach in that state’s public schools.

She moved to Jefferson Missouri to teach at Lincoln University either in 1879 or 1881, depending on your sources. There she taught chemistry, botany, drawing, elocution, and English literature. She was promoted to the head of Lincoln’s natural Sciences department in 1886, making her the first African American woman to head a college science department. This also made her the first African American woman to be a full professor at any college or university in the United States. All the while she was teaching, she wrote newspaper and magazine articles under the penname R.K. Potter. By 1900, she was publishing poetry, too.

When she married William Ward Yates in 1889, she resigned from her university position, moved to Kansas City with her husband, and had two children. While he served as a principal there, she blossomed as an activist. Like many African American women of her time, she became active in the African American Women’s Club movement. She helped found the Women’s League of Kansas City in 1893. When the League joined the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), Josephine served in various offices from 1897 to 1901. She promoted the establishment of kindergartens and day nurseries through the NACW to help prepare African American children for a post-emancipation society where they would not be taught to be subservient second-class citizens.

Lincoln University asked Josephine to return in 1902 to head their English and history department. She did this until 1908 when she offered to resign because of ill health. Her resignation was refused, so she remained as an advisor to women until 1910. She continued championing education and advancement for African American women, helping to found the first African American Young Women’s Christian Association in Kansas City a year before she died.

Looking back on women like Josephine I am inspired by how their drive stems from wanting as many people as possible to benefit from their accomplishments. I hope someday the same can be said of me.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, share your thoughts in the comments.

Better To Marry Than To Burn by Michal Scott

Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.

Excerpt:

Queen Esther Payne arrived at noon on September fourteenth and proved to be a paragon indeed.

Caesar gawked at the copper-toned Amazon who emerged from the stagecoach like royalty descending from a throne.

Queen. Her name definitely suited. Only Cleopatra could have fit better. Maybe Sheba.

The afternoon sunlight crowned her with rays of gold. Kinky black ringlets covered her head, declaring she had a Nubian pride befitting the woman he’d want to wed. She used her bonnet to fan away dirt dusted up by the stagecoach’s departure. Her twisting and turning revealed an hourglass waist above curvaceous hips.

At his approach, her eyebrow curved over a gaze brimming with criticism. “Caesar King?”

He removed his hat and extended his hand in greeting. “At your service, Queen.”

She donned her hat and examined him with that regal air. “Miss Payne, if you please. You may call me Queen after the nuptials.” She finished tying her hat’s long ribbons beneath her chin. “Although, even then, I’d prefer Mrs. King.”

“You don’t say?” He chuckled, taking her measure from head to foot. “Well, Miss Payne it is…for now.”

She filled her face with a frown. “I don’t appreciate being examined like some newly purchased cow, Mr. King.”

He pulled back. Amusement wrestled with annoyance. “I’m making sure you measure up, Miss Payne.”

“Pray, to what criteria?” She shoved her valise against his chest. Caesar grunted, surprised but pleased by her strength.

She crossed her arms, causing her lovely bosom to swell. “I doubt there’s a standard for marriages of convenience.”

He inhaled against the pull of desire throbbing in his privates. “The same criteria as you, I suspect—my own self-worth and what I deserve.” He dropped the bag at her feet. “So, by that token, I don’t appreciate being treated like some fetch-and- carry boy.”

She lowered her gaze. But for the set of her jaw, he’d have taken the gesture for an apology.

He leaned forward and whispered, “If you ask me nicely, I’d gladly carry your bag.”

“A gentleman wouldn’t need to be asked.” Her tone dripped with disdain. “A gentleman would simply take it.”

“I do many things, Miss Payne.” He pushed up the brim of his hat and grinned, fired up by the hazel flame sparking in her eyes. “Pretending to be a gentleman doesn’t number among them.”

Buylink: https://amzn.to/2KTaGPH

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin – Pioneering Publisher, Suffragist and Women’s Club Founder (Contest)
Thursday, January 25th, 2024

UPDATE: The winner is…Diane Sallans!
*~*~*

The phrase “fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree” describes Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin perfectly.

Born Josephine St. Pierre in 1842 in Boston, her middle-class parents sent her to integrated schools in Charlestown, Salem, and New York rather than accept the segregation imposed by Boston’s school system. No wonder she lived a life predisposed to fighting injustice on her own as well as on the behalf of others.

She married George Lewis Ruffin in 1858. A pioneer in his own right, the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School and the one of the first African American judges in a Northern state. They lived in England for six months then returned and helped recruit volunteers for African American Civil War regiments like the Massachusetts 54th.  He died in 1886.

A member of the New England Women’s Press Association, Ruffin wrote for the Courant, a weekly paper for African Americans. She founded the Women’s Era, the first newspaper published by and for African American women. She and her daughter, Florida, published this illustrated monthly for seven years.

Her fight for women’s suffrage showed she understood the concept of intersectionality. She is quoted as saying, “We are justified in believing that the success of this movement for equality of the sexes means progress toward equality of the races.” Ruffin served as president of the West End League of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association.

She was the first African American member of the New England Women’s Club. In 1893, she founded The Woman’s Era club for African American women. Living up to its motto, “Make the World Better,” their activities promoted and fundraised for self-help activities to “uplift the race.” Ruffin believed a national organization for African American women’s clubs was needed and organized a conference in Boston to that end. Women from ten to fourteen states attended. They formed the National Federation of Afro-Am Women. This in turn merged with the Colored Women’s League, forming the National Association of Colored Women.

In 1900 at the meeting of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Southern women on the credentials committee opposed her representing both white and African American clubs.  They would only accept her credentials for the white clubs. She refused and was excluded from the meeting. The incident was nationally covered by the press.

Ruffin continued her fight for racial equality, and in 1910, became a founding member of the Boston NAACP. She died in 1924. In 1995, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. A bronze bust of Ruffin is one of six famous Massachusetts women which stand in the Massachusetts State House.

Once again, the accomplishments of women like Josephine awe and inspire me to do all I can with the opportunities I have. For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card, leave a comment on Josephine and other women who have inspired you.

Better To Marry Than To Burn

Freed Man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black township of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.

Excerpt:

She sidled up to him, cupped his erection and fondled his balls.

“Ready for bed or ready to bed me?”

He moaned, placed his hand atop hers and increased the pressure. Already hard, he hadn’t imagined he could get any harder.

“Is that beautiful brass bed new?”

He gulped. “Ye—yes. Bought it—bought it for the honeymoon.”

“I’m ready to be bedded now,” she whispered. “Or is that something we must negotiate?”

All thoughts of dinner vanished.

“No,” he rasped, leaning forward, as hungry for her lips as he was to be inside her.

“Good.” She stepped back, out of reach. “But, let’s be clear…” She bent over, so her butt protruded toward him.

She massaged each buttock so her crack parted invitingly.

“Tonight, it’s the Greek way or no way.”

He blinked, stunned by this demand to be taken anally. His master had had books filled with drawings, depicting naked Greeks wrestling. Those pen and ink depictions flashed before him now. Arms constrained by arms, legs entwined with legs, butts and groins enmeshed in snug contortions.

He’d love to take Queen that way, experience first- hand the erotic intimacy etched in the men’s struggle-laden features.

He took one step toward her then stopped. No. One day, he would…but not tonight. Not their first time. Their first time would be the nose-to-nose, chest-to-breast, cock-to-vagina coupling he’d hungered five years for.

buy link: https://amzn.to/2KTaGPH

Anna Taylor Sweringen/Michal Scott: Unbowed by the Tyranny of a Single Story – Sarah J. Smith Thompson Garnet (Contest)
Friday, December 29th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…BN!
*~*~*

The firstborn of Sylvanus and Anne Smith’s eleven children, Sarah was born on July 31, 1831, in the now historic Black Brooklyn neighborhood of Weeksville. Her father was one of Weeksville’s founders and one of the few black men who could vote because he had $250 in property. Both Sarah and her sister Susan were firsts in African American history in New York. Sarah became the first African American female to serve as a principal of a public school. Her sister Susan was the first African American female in New York State to receive a medical degree.

When Sarah was fourteen, she began her career as a teaching assistant. In 1854, she taught at the African Free School of Williamsburg (Brooklyn). By the time she retired from teaching in 1900, she served for thirty-seven years as a principal. First at Colored School No. 7 in Manhattan in 1863 then as principal for both Colored School No. 4 and Public School No. 80 in 1866. She used her position to help other African American women in the teaching profession. She signed a letter of support to the Board of Education on behalf of a teacher, Ms. G.F. Putnam, for her appointment to the position of Head of Department in Public School No. 83.

In addition to teaching, Sarah was an active suffragist. She founded the Equal Suffrage League in Brooklyn, the first suffrage club for African American women. She also headed the suffrage department of the National Association of Colored Women. Alva Vanderbilt Belmont reached out to Sarah in 1910 to see if African American women might be interested in joining her suffrage club, The Political Equality Association. The answer was no, as many white women’s suffrage movements did not focus on civil rights issues important to all African Americans, like lynching. In 1911, Sarah’s activism took her to England with her sister Susan to the first Universal Races Congress, where Susan delivered a paper on African American women.

It comes as no surprise that Sarah also had an entrepreneurial spirit. She owned and ran her own seamstress shop from 1883 to 1911.

Sarah married twice. First to Episcopal minister Samuel Thompson (often mistakenly cited as Tompkins) who died in 1852. They had one daughter who lived to adulthood. In 1875, she wed Presbyterian minister and abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet who died in 1882.

Sarah died at home in Brooklyn in 1911. Noted African Americans W.E.B. DuBois and Addie Waites Hunton spoke at her memorial service.

Having grown up in Brooklyn, I knew more about her sister Susan Smith McKinney, but Sarah’s pioneering work in the New York City public school system has gained prominence thanks to the HBO series The Gilded Age.

Too often the ordeal of slavery is the only lens through which African American history is seen. Sarah Smith Thompkins Garnet’s story shows how free blacks in the North used their own advocacy and agency to build resilient African American communities.

For a chance at a $10 Amazon gift card share your thoughts on Sarah’s life in the comments.

Better To Marry Than To Burn by Michal Scott

Wife Wanted: Marital relations as necessary. Love not required nor sought…

A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.

Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.

Excerpt from Better to Marry than to Burn:

Of the men attending the meeting, thirty plunked down ten dollars for a chance at a wife. Twelve signed “I’m leaving” pledges. Caesar would do neither. His new beginning couldn’t be left up to chance, not now that staying took on a grander meaning.

Forty women arrived in June. Young, old, ex- slave and freeborn. Some widowed. Some with children. Some mere children themselves. Once introduced, each woman shared her hopes and wants. The lottery gave them three months to be courted and become brides or accept a return ticket back home. Moving as their stories were, Caesar knew he’d done right to go his own way. He’d advertised back East for a new wife. His ad, and to the point, stated his goal:

Freed man seeking woman to partner in marriage for at least two years in the black town of Douglass, Texas. Must be willing and able to help establish a legacy. Marital relations as necessary. Love neither required nor sought.

Only desperate females who couldn’t string two words together had answered. Not that he was looking for conversation, but he’d had a prize in his Emma and nothing less than another prize would do. Finally, he received a missive that gave him hope he’d found his match.

He’d held her envelope beside the flickering glow of a kerosene lamp and studied the handwriting. The elegant strokes bespoke education. The grade of paper used signaled either someone of means or at least someone intent on making a good impression. Two marks in her favor.

His eyebrows raised, however, as his gaze lingered over the Q imprinted in the wax seal holding the envelope shut. Another sign of quality…maybe too much quality. Why would a woman of obvious education and means be willing to brave the hardships of life out West as an ex-slave’s mail order bride?

Buy link: https://amzn.to/2KTaGPH

Anna T.S./Michal Scott: Frances Watkins Harper – A Woman’s Reach Must Exceed Her Grasp (Contest)
Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

UPDATE: The winner is…Jennifer Beyer!
*~*~*

Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach must exceed his grasp or what’s a heaven for?” Frances Watkins Harper’s list of accomplishments, author, poet, teacher, suffragist, reformer, and abolitionist, shows she believed that about women, too.

Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1825, Frances’ parents died when she was three. She was raised by her aunt and minister abolitionist uncle, Henrietta and William J. Watkins who had been teaching free children to read and write since 1820. No wonder activism came naturally to Frances. By the age of twenty-one, she published Forest Leaves, her first book of poetry. She produced no less than 80 poems and four novels, all of which touched on the issues of oppression she would fight against for the rest of her life.

At age twenty-six, she taught domestic science at Union Seminary in Ohio for a year then moved to Pennsylvania where she taught as well. A Maryland law threatened enslavement to any free African American who returned to the state from the North, so she remained in Pennsylvania with Mary Still and her husband William, the father of the Underground Railroad. While with them, Frances began writing poetry for anti-slavery newspapers. In 1858, she wrote one of her most celebrated poems, “Bury Me In A Free Land.” That same year, she refused to give up her seat and move to the colored section of a Philadelphia trolley.

She spoke for eight years for anti-slavery societies in the US and Canada on the issues she wrote about: racism, women’s rights, and classism. In 1859, she wrote “The Two Offers,” the first short story ever published by an African American woman and the essay “Our Greatest Want” which compared the slavery of African Americans with that of the Hebrews of the Old Testament.

In 1860, she married Fenton Harper and had one daughter, Mary, but unfortunately, became widowed four years later.

At the 1866 National Woman’s Right’s Convention, she spoke urging support for suffrage for African American women who, being Black and female, needed the vote, too. Attendees organized the American Equal Rights Organization, but a split between the members occurred over support of the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the vote before White women. Siding with those championing the amendment, Frances helped form the American Woman Suffrage Association instead.

She spent the rest of her days working for social reform to better the lives of African Americans. She served as the vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, director of the American Association of Colored Youth, and superintendent of the African American designated sections of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Unions.

The home Frances lived in from 1870 until her death in 1911 is a historic site within the National Park Service.

https://www.nps.gov/places/frances-ellen-watkins-harper-house.htm.

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One Breath Away
by Michal Scott

Sentenced to hang for a crime she didn’t commit, former slave Mary Hamilton was exonerated at literally the last gasp. She returns to Safe Haven, broken and resigned to live alone. She’s never been courted, cuddled or spooned, and now no man could want her, not when sexual satisfaction comes only with the thought of asphyxiation. But then the handsome stranger who saved her shows up, stealing her breath from across the room and promising so much more. Wealthy, freeborn-Black, Eban Thurman followed Mary to Safe Haven, believing the mysteriously exotic woman was foretold by the stars. He must marry her to reclaim his family farm. But first he must help her heal, and to do that means revealing his own predilection for edgier sex. Hope ignites along with lust until the past threatens to keep them one breath away from love…

Excerpt from One Breath Away… 

Arousal—fondly remembered and sorely missed—sizzled between Mary Hamilton’s well-rounded thighs. Moisture coated her nether lips and threatened to stoke the sizzle into a blaze. The sensation surprised her, as did the owner of the gaze that lit the flame.

Eban Thurman stood against an opposite wall of the town’s community hall. Although the room was wide as two barns and filled with revelers, neither the distance nor the presence of the crowd lessened the power of his gaze. He studied her with a curiosity that didn’t grope with disdain, but caressed with approval.

With respect.

This kind of appreciation was never given to women as dark and as large as she. Gratitude heated her face.

Gratitude and embarrassment. Her lavender toilet water couldn’t hide the fragrance of arousal. She shuddered with shame then glanced around. Had anyone else detected the odor? All the merrymakers seemed too caught up in the rhythmic fast fiddling and foot-stomping of Safe Haven’s seventh annual Juneteenth Revel to notice her discomfort.

In 1872 Texas who took note of a black woman who ain’t been asked to wed?

Yet Eban’s perusal said not only did he take note, but he liked what he saw.

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