An appeal in favor of that class of Americans called by Lydia Maria Child

By Lydia Maria Child

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A schoolroom in the basement of the African Baptist Church, located in the black neighborhood known as "Nigger Hill," it betokened the solidarity these early abolitionists felt with African Americans, the ostracism they risked by associating with a pariah class, and the racial uplift they hoped to promote by furnishing blacks with opportunities for higher education. Yet indicative of a paternalism abolitionists would never quite overcome, no African Americans participated in founding the New England Anti-Slavery Society, despite a well-established tradition of black antislavery activism; instead, blacks were invited to join after whites had set the society's initial agenda.

In sum, the Appeal may have as much to teach readers at the approach of the twenty-first century as it did those who experienced the throes of the antislavery controversy. Inaugurating a new edition of Child's Appealthe first oriented toward the college classroompresents an occasion for paying tribute to the late Sidney Kaplan, who suggested this project years before it became feasible and who also sponsored the reprinting of Child's collected correspondence. One of the rare literary scholars cognizant of Child's writings and aware of her importance in that early era, Professor Kaplan kept the study of abolitionismand of the African American legacyalive in the white academic world during the long reign of New Criticism.

Embedded in Child's unfortunate concession to popular prejudice against interracial marriage was a covert critique of antimiscegenation laws, however. " Instead, "we would leave men free to choose their wives, as they are to choose their religion," she concluded. "19 Child even anticipated the Appeal in the witty peroration of her Massachusetts Journal editorial. " In the later work she would suggest that a "residence in Turkey might be profitable to those Christians" who characterized prejudice as eternal and irremediable, for "it would afford an opportunity of testing the goodness of the rule, by showing how it works both ways" (206).

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