Although Maria W. Stewart is primarily known as a lecturer, a journalist, and an abolitionist and women's rights activist, a recently recovered short story illuminates her contribution to early African American children's print culture. In 1861, the Repository of Religion and Literature, and of Science and Art, a publication of the A.M.E. church that was edited by black men and designed for black readers, serialized Stewart's short story "The First Stage of Life" in the April, July, and October issues. This short story, published in the "Children's Room" section of the Repository, shows evidence that Stewart was a pioneer in creating literature for and about black children and indicted white authors and publishers for excluding black children from their publications. As with other African women writers in the nineteenth century, Stewart focused on the youthful experiences of black girls, often writing from their own experience. African American women writers delved into the interior lives of these youthful characters, showing their readers the thoughts, reasoning, and decision making processes of black girls as they weighed complex moral issues and considered the impact of their actions on numerous others. African American women writers distinguished between youthful and knowing girlhood. These clearly defined stages of development show that black girls deserved protection against cruel labor requirements or sexual victimization. The girls that these authors portrayed demonstrated physical endurance, resilience, and determination in the face of the most extreme circumstances. Stewart's "The First Stage of Life" reveals that black girls survived their circumstances with the aid of community members who nurtured them.
|Number of pages||26|
|State||Published - Sep 1 2015|
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2015 MELUS: The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 2015.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory