Appeal in Favor of... Americans Called Africans

L. Maria CHILD   |   Convers FRANCIS

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Item#: 103909 price:$6,000.00

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(SLAVERY) CHILD, Mrs. [Lydia Maria]. An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans. Boston: Allen and Ticknor, 1833. Small octavo ( 4-3/4 by 7-1/2 inches), original blue-green cloth rebacked with original cloth spine and paper spine label laid down. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6000.

First edition of the revolutionary 1833 antislavery work that made abolitionist Lydia Maria Child “one of the first Americans to speak out against the institution of slavery,” a rare association copy with the owner signature of Child's beloved older brother, Convers Francis, with him noting in ink below his signature "from his beloved sister, Mrs. Child."

By the 1830s Child was already a popular novelist, essayist and magazine writer, and the founder of America's first children's magazine, Juvenile Miscellany. When her Appeal appeared in 1833, however, public outrage threatened both her career and her safety. A meeting with William Lloyd Garrison in 1830 had propelled Child toward the massive research she undertook for this pioneering work, which made her the "acknowledged leader of the abolitionist movement… [yet] it was dangerous to be an abolitionist in the 1830s. Two months after Child published her Appeal, mob violence against abolitionists broke out across the country… Unlike many abolitionists, she believed that racial prejudice in the North was almost as bad as slavery in the South. Racial discrimination of any form, she constantly insisted, should have no place in a republic based on the ideals of equality, freedom and opportunity" (Kenschaft, 6-8). Senator Charles Sumner, one of "the most important of those who influenced Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation" (ANB), always credited Child's "Appeal with awakening him to the injustice of slavery. So did Wendell Phillips, who was to become one of the greatest orators of the abolitionist movement" (Kenschaft, 6-8). Frederick Douglass also paid tribute to Child, saying her Appeal, "issued, as it was, at an early stage in the antislavery conflict, was one of the most effective agencies in arousing attention to the cruelty and injustice of slavery" (Life and Times, 470-41).

In authoring her Appeal, "Child marshaled an enormous amount of data to show that black people are intellectually and morally equal to whites… In every way she could think of, she insisted that racial prejudice had no legitimate ground and that blacks and whites could and should learn to live together as equals—even, if they wanted to, as husbands and wives These were radical ideas in the 1830s and the Appeal produced a storm of outrage" (Kenschaft, 47). Its "very title defines blacks as Americans… Her eight chapters survey the history of slavery and the African slave trade… describe American slave law as the harshest in the world, demonstrate the possibility of safe emancipation and the greater profitability of free labor over slave labor, examine the ways in which the Constitution allows slaveholding states to dominate Congress and govern national policy… refute claims that Africans are intellectually inferior and morally debased, and condemn racial prejudice in the North" (Karcher, 136-7). "Despite the emotional and financial hardship caused by her antislavery views, Child refused to be silenced… becoming one of the first Americans to speak out against the institution of slavery" (ANB). With three engraved plates (including frontispiece); without tipped-in errata slip. Sabin 12711. Work, 299. BAL 3116. See Blockson 9186. Child's brother, Convers Francis, Jr. "was a brilliant young scholar who… became a Unitarian minister and a member of the Transcendentalist circle. He encouraged his sister's voracious appetite for learning by giving her access to his library, as well as opportunities to discuss literature and ideas. In 1821, when he became a minster of the Unitarian Church in Watertown, Massachusetts, his sister joined his household" (Peterson, Stirring the Nation's Heart, 89-90). Francis, who became a professor at Harvard Divinity School in 1842, was also active in the abolitionist movement, though he "rejected the more militant view of slavery of his sister until the 1850s" (Shook, Dictionary of Early American Philosophers, 410-11). Francis once wrote of Child: "A dear, blessed sister has she been to me: would that I had been half as good a brother to her!"

Text and plates fresh with light scattered foxing mainly to preliminaries, expert restoration to original cloth, some rubbing to scarce original spine label. An extremely good association copy.

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