Nellie Brown, or the Jealous Wife, with Other Sketches

Thomas Detter, Author, Frances Smith Foster, Introduction by University of Nebraska Press $40 (122p) ISBN 978-0-8032-1704-1
Detter, a 19th-century African American minister, businessman and equal rights advocate who was active in the boom economy of the West, originally published this collection consisting of a novella, a short story, a folktale and six essays in 1871. The title story, a novella set in Virginia, whose white, slave-owning protagonists deal with suspected adultery, jealousy and divorce, is typical in style of the domestic fiction of the time and is intended as moral instruction as well as entertainment. This story and ""The Octoroon of Cuba"" were ahead of their time, however, in grappling with the theme of divorce. The latter is a compelling tale in which the issue of a master begetting children on his female slave is complicated by the author's awareness of the ramifications of the interracial heritage common to many in New Orleans and Cuba. The strongest piece in the collection, it features a remarkably original, freethinking protagonist in Jane Gray Zevoe and is written with much more skill and grace than is ""Nellie Brown."" The three essays reveal Detter as an articulate and courageous opponent of racial prejudice. ""Boise City"" describes that city's peculiarly intense racism. ""Give the Negro a Chance"" is an eloquent argument for African Americans' inclusion in the American Dream, delivered in a seasoned oratorical voice. Detter's candid insights into his period are a real contribution to the reader's historical perspective. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
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