‘A Weapon of the Deadliest Kind’: Selections from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922
The December release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a patently racist collection “of laughable caricatures on the march of manners amongst the blacks,” a fictional memoir of questionable morality, and a proposed solution to “a menace to American civilization” by a white supremacist.
Tregear's Black Jokes (1834)
London-based publisher Gabriel Shear Tregear (1802-1841) managed his Humorous and Sporting Print Shop from the late 1820s to his death. His shop was renowned, and later infamous, for the multitude of caricatures and prints filling its windows. He was forced to reduce the number of displayed items after a child was struck accidently by a passing wagon due to the size of the gathered crowd near the shop. This hard-to-find collection of drawings by little-known artist W. Summers illustrates the societal racism of the period. It also includes the scarce plates numbered 1, 2, 5, 13, 14, 17, and 20.
The Memoirs of Dolly Morton (1904)
By Hugues Rebell
Georges Grassal de Choffat or Hugues Rebell (1867-1905) was a French author and professed pagan. He was also a prolific contributor to early 20th-century spanking literature. This fictitious work, classified in the genre Erotica, tells the story of Civil War-era female abolitionists, crimes against them, and aspects of plantation life. The narrator describes himself this way:
…I stood six feet in my socks, and I was strong and healthy; my disposition was adventurous; I was fond of women and rather reckless in my pursuit of them…
The volume opens with this intriguing “publisher’s notice concerning foreign pirates, private books, and negro emancipation”:
The pages of “Dolly Morton” are not meant for the eyes of “babes and sucklings” – its tropical descriptions would scorch their weakling sight and unsettle their wavering soul. These private memoirs elucidate certain curious vagaries of the ever-changing human mind which are good to be known, though only by scholars and accredited bibliophiles, who will be careful to place the precious volume on the top shelves of their locked book-case.
A book of this kind can only escape the charge of immorality when kept out of the reach of the multitude by the prohibitiveness of its price and the limited number of the edition. Upon the seared senses of the man of the world or the trained mind of the thinker, it can have no pernicious effect, But, if addressed virginibus puerisque and peddled from house to house, it becomes a weapon of the deadliest kind.
The chemist is allowed to dispense poisons under certain conditions; the lawyer, judge, and doctor, to enquire into matters wisely hid from the common ken, and such a work as “The Memoirs of Dolly Morton” falls, we opine, under the same rules and restrictions.
These are some of the reasons why we decided to issue this fascinating production – a human document in the truest sense.
The Negro: A Menace to American Civilization (1907)
By Robert Wilson Shufeldt
White supremacist Robert Wilson Shufeldt (1850-1934) was an American ethnographer and museologist who contributed to comparative studies of bird anatomy and forensic science. He is also remembered as being a party to a divorce case that led to a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court on the subject of alimony and bankruptcy. In this volume Shufeldt writes extensively about miscegenation with an entire chapter on “Half-breeds, Hybridization, Atavism, Heredity, Mental and Physical Characters of Race Hybrids.”
Shufeldt, discussing inherited traits and characteristics, writes:
The matter of chance never enters the result in the case of any individual, be he black or white. In the main trend again men breed true to their race, their stock, and the lines of their family ascent. In investigating the attainments, accomplishments and achievements of any line of pure-blooded and unmixed negro stock, we shall no more chance to find members in it who are or have been distinguished biologists, physicians, or artists, than we do, when we come to make similar researches in any first-class Anglo-Saxon pedigree, meet with semi-transformed cannibalistic savages, superstitious religionists, and natural criminals as we do in the case of the negroes.