“The Double Curse of Sex and Color”: Robert Purvis and Human Rights

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2014-12-17 18:59Z by Steven

“The Double Curse of Sex and Color”: Robert Purvis and Human Rights

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 121 [CXXI], Number 1-2, January/April 1997
pages 53-76

Margaret Hope Bacon (1921-2011)

In 1869 A NATIONAL WOMAN’S SUFFRAGE convention was held for the first time in Washington, D.C. The Fourteenth Amendment had recently been ratified and the Fifteenth was about to be introduced into Congress. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and other women present used the opportunity to object to black men receiving the vote before women, both black and white, were enfranchised. Their arguments were countered by those of Frederick Douglass, Edward M. Davis, Dr. Charles Burleigh Purvis, and others, who maintained that the Southern black male needed the shield of suffrage to protect him from the reign of terror being visited upon him by former slave owners.

A tall slender man with fair skin and white hair rose at his seat and began to speak. Elizabeth Stanton invited him to come forward and address the convention from the platform. Robert Purvis of Philadelphia said that he was willing to wait for the vote for himself and his sons and his race until women were also permitted to enjoy it. It was important to him that his daughter be enfranchised, since she bore the double curse of sex and race. He chided his son, Dr. Charles Purvis, for holding a narrow position, and reminded him that his sister Hattie also deserved to be enfranchised.

Alone among the black men who had supported women’s rights in the antislavery movement, Robert Purvis remained an advocate of suffrage for women throughout the period of debate and schism over the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. In 1888 he was honored by Susan B. Anthony at the International Council of Women, meeting in Washington, D.C., for his courageous stand in 1869 in opposition to his own son.

Purvis’s advocacy of women’s rights was rooted in his deeply held convictions on human rights. He believed strongly that the struggle for equality for blacks could not be separated from that of women, of American Indians, of Irish nationalists demanding home rule, of all minorities. He objected to all associations based on color alone and rejected the term “African-American.” ‘There is not a single African in the United States,” he told a Philadelphia audience in 1886. “We are to the manner born; we are native Americans.”

Purvis’s position on human rights undoubtedly stemmed in part from his own mixed-race background. His grandmother, Dido Badaracka, was born in Morocco. Purvis described her as a “full-blooded Moor of magnificent features and great beauty. She had crisp hair and a stately manner.” In approximately 1766, at the age of twelve, she was captured by a slave trader along with an Arab girl. The two had been enticed to go a mile or two out of the city where they lived to see a deer that had been caught. They were seized, loaded on the backs of camels, and carried to a slave market on the coast. Here they were loaded onto a slaver and transported to Charleston, South Carolina. At the slave market in Charleston, Dido was bought by a kind white woman, named Day or Deas, who educated her, treated her as a companion, and left instructions that she was to be freed when the woman died, nine years later, in 1775…

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“Faithfully Drawn from Real Life”: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2013-08-20 20:40Z by Steven

“Faithfully Drawn from Real Life”: Autobiographical Elements in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography
Volume 137, Number 3 (July 2013)
pages 261-300
DOI: 10.5215/pennmaghistbio.137.3.0261

Mary Maillard

A resurgence of interest in Frank J. Webb’s The Garies and Their Friends—the second novel by an African American and the first to portray northern racism—underscores the need for consideration of recently discovered biographical information about this enigmatic author. Previously unknown details about the lives of Frank J. Webb (1828-94) and his family and friends parallel some of his literary portrayals, subtly inform other scenes and characters, and generally help to illuminate the unique combination of biography, social history, and creative imagination that constitute Webb’s complex literary achievement.

The Garies and Their Friends is constructed around two major narrative lines: the stories of the Garie family and the Ellis family. In Georgia, Clarence Garie, a white slave owner, is living openly with his mulatto slave mistress, Emily Winston; he treats her with as much affection and respect as if she were his wife and wishes to marry her, but interracial marriage is illegal in the state. They have two children, named after their parents, Clarence and Emily. The Garies entertain Emily’s cousin, George Winston, who, although born and raised in slavery, was educated and freed by a kind master. Now, with all the appearances of a refined gentleman, he is passing as white—much to the approbation and amusement of Mr. Garie.

In Philadelphia, the Ellises are a “highly respectable and industrious coloured family.” Mr. Ellis, a carpenter, and his wife, Ellen, have three…

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But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis

Posted in Biography, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2010-02-16 00:12Z by Steven

But One Race: The Life of Robert Purvis

State University of New York Press
January 2007
293 pages
Hardcover ISBN10: 0-7914-7007-5; ISBN13: 978-0-7914-7007-7
Paperback ISBN13: 978-0-7914-7008-4

Margaret Hope Bacon (1921-2011)

Biography of famous black abolitionist and voting rights advocate, Robert Purvis.

Born in South Carolina to a wealthy white father and mixed race mother, Robert Purvis (1810–1898) was one of the nineteenth century’s leading black abolitionists and orators. In this first biography of Purvis, Margaret Hope Bacon uses his eloquent and often fierce speeches to provide a glimpse into the life of a passionate and distinguished man, intimately involved with a wide range of major reform movements, including abolition, civil rights, Underground Railroad activism, women’s rights, Irish Home Rule, Native American rights, and prison reform. Citing his role in developing the Philadelphia Vigilant Committee, an all black organization that helped escaped slaves secure passage to the North, the New York Times described Purvis at the time of his death as the president of the Underground Railroad. Voicing his opposition to a decision by the state of Pennsylvania to disenfranchise black voters in 1838, Purvis declared “there is but one race, the human race.” But One Race is the dramatic story of one of the most important figures of his time.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Ancestral Chart of the Purvis Family
  • Introduction
  • 1. Of Southern Birth
  • 2. The City of Brotherly Love
  • 3. Present at the Beginning
  • 4. World Traveler
  • 5. “We are Not Intruders Here”
  • 6. To Aid the Fleeing Slave
  • 7. A Time of Loss
  • 8. Gentleman Farmer
  • 9. “This Wicked Law”
  • 10. “Are We Not Men?”
  • 11. “A Proud Day for the Colored Man”
  • 12. “Equality of Rights for All”
  • 13. The Freedmen’s Savings Bank
  • 14. “We are To the Manner Born”
  • 15. “His Magnificent Record”
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Read the first chapter here.

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