‘Lets us Begin Life Anew, and Learn to Live in Earnest!’ Free Black Women and the Challenges of Freedom in the Civil War Era

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Living on the peripheries of society in 19th century America on account of their race and gender, free black women’s experience during slavery and the Civil War have often been marginalised in the historical record. This chapter focuses on little known free black author, Julia C. Collins and her short essays contributed to the black newspaper, The Christiaan Recorder, during the Civil War. Through a close reading of her work, the chapter locates Collins as part of an emerging black female intellectual movement in early 19th century through the Civil War and beyond. It considers the themes she employs through her writing such as racial uplift, education, and citizenship, and reflects on how such subjects were shaped into a collective discourse among many free black women of the Civil War era at both a local and national level. This chapter subsequently highlights the ways in which some free black women negotiated their freedoms – through intellectual activism. Living on the margins of the public sphere, the Civil War provided an opportunity to move from periphery to centre in debates around freedom and how it might be defined and experienced in the aftermatvh of the Civil War.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Civil War and Slavery
Subtitle of host publicationNegotiating the Peripheries
EditorsLaura Sandy, Marie Molloy
ISBN (Print)9780367181222
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2019

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