The American Prejudice Against Color
William G. Allen, Mary King, Louisa May Alcott
University Press of New England
A compilation of the explosive reactions to interracial love and marriage in antebellum America.
In 1853, William G. Allen, the "Coloured Professor" of Classics at New York Central College, became engaged to Mary King, a student at the coeducational, racially integrated school and daughter of a local white abolitionist minister. Rumors of their betrothal incited a mob of several hundred men armed with "tar, feathers, poles, and an empty barrel spiked with shingle nails." Allen and King narrowly escaped with their lives, married in New York City, and then fled as fugitives to England and Ireland.
Their love story and brave resistance were recorded in engrossing detail by Allen in two pamphlets-The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into An Uproar (1853) and A Short Personal Narrative (1860). Reproduced here in their entirety, Allen's forthright, eloquent, and ironic accounts, which include excerpts from abolitionist and anti-abolitionist newspaper reports about the incident, drew renewed threats against the exiled pair as well as support from the couple's circle of antislavery friends and allies, a diverse group including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Beriah Green, Gerrit Smith, Reverend Samuel J. May, and George Thompson.
The experiences related by Allen vividly illustrate the rampant fears of "amalgamation" that sparked violent protests in antebellum America. He also reveals white abolitionists' contradictions regarding mixed-race relationships. Also contained in this volume is Louisa May Alcott's M.L., a fictional tale of interracial love based on her familiarity with the Allen-King episode through her abolitionist uncle, the Reverend Samuel J. May. Alcott's story was refused by The Atlantic magazine because, she said, it "might offend the dear South."
An insightful introduction by editor Sarah Elbert places the writings within a historical and cultural context. She details William G. Allen's notable career as a graduate of the Oneida Institute and as an active abolitionist in the network reaching from New York's North Star Country through Boston, Canada, England, and Ireland. In exile, William and Mary King Allen, important members of the trans-Atlantic movement, continued their struggle for "free association" and supported their family by teaching poor children in London.
The 1853 betrothal of African-American professor William Allen to the daughter of a white abolitionist, Mary King, set off white mob violence in New York that almost cost Allen and King their lives. The two political pamphlets that Allen wrote about the incident and a short story written by Louisa May Alcott ("M.L.") that was based on her knowledge of the events are gathered together in this volume. Elbert (history and women's studies, State U. of New York at Binghamton) also provides an introduction detailing the historical context of the slave fugitive laws and the abolitionist movement. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Boston : Northeastern University Press, c2002
154 p. ; 22 cm