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'Til Death or Distance Do Us Part: Love and Marriage in African America

Frances Smith Foster, Author
Frances Smith Foster, Author . Oxford Univ. $21.95 (198p) ISBN 978-0-19-532852-3
Reviewed on: 11/30/2009
Release date: 01/01/2010
Open Ebook - 198 pages - 978-1-282-38389-0
Paperback - 220 pages - 978-0-19-938970-4
Hardcover - 219 pages - 978-0-19-971651-7
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Faced with “a plethora of stories about promiscuous coupling and fatherless families, instability, and group dysfunction,” Foster (Written by Herself ) illuminates the African-American historical experience of love and marriage through the stories “that antebellum African Americans told among themselves.” She relies particularly on the records of the 18th century Free African Union Societies of Newport, R.I., and Philadelphia and 19th-century slave narratives along with contemporaneous novels and poems. The most groundbreaking content stems from the Afro-Protestant press periodicals, which are “treasure troves of ideas, experiences, and ideals.” She has more on her mind than emending the historical record; after leaving the antebellum period, where she amply demonstrates that African-American marriage “was frequent, that family ties were strong,” she embarks on digressive journeys. Her meditations—on “negative contemporary narratives,” the work of various social scientists (“friendly fire in our battle to be a free people in a free country”), her daughter's wedding, and the Defense of Marriage Act—somewhat dilute the richness of her primary theme. Still, readers will be freshly informed by the historical and, perhaps, engaged by the tangential. (Jan.)

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