Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Rebecca Primus of Royal Oak, Maryland, and Addie Brown of Hartford, Connecticut, 1854-1868

Farah Jasmine Griffin, Editor, Rebecca Primus, Author, Addie Brown, Joint Author Alfred A. Knopf $26 (320p) ISBN 978-0-679-45128-0
An extraordinary historical find, the letters of these two 19th-century African-American women from radically different class and educational backgrounds offer a rare glimpse into the lives of black women during Reconstruction. A professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, Griffin adds a meticulously researched and helpful explication of the historical context of the romantic friendship between the two women. Rebecca Primus left her comfortable life amid her prominent black family in Hartford, Conn., to teach freed slaves in Maryland. Over a 14-year period, she received 150 letters from Addie Brown, a laundress and seamstress in Connecticut and New York. While Brown's letters to Primus are included, Primus's correspondence to Brown has been lost; what appears here are 60 letters she wrote to her family. Primus took her duty to educate and be a role model to the newly freed slaves seriously. Her letters carefully document Reconstruction political activity by Maryland blacks and how those she taught built the Primus Institute in her honor. Meanwhile, Brown wrote to Primus of the black community's efforts to raise funds for the New York Colored Orphan Asylum, which was burned in the 1863 draft riots. More of Brown's letters were devoted to her courtship of Primus. That both women later married men Griffin attributes to the fact that the ""Victorian heterosocial and homosocial worlds were complementary."" She persuasively concludes that documents such as these demand a rewriting of American history. Agent, Loretta Barrett. (June)
Reviewed on: 05/03/1999
Release date: 05/01/1999
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-345-40854-9
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