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Frances Harper’s fourth novel follows the life of the beautiful, light-skinned Iola Leroy to tell the story of black families in slavery, during the Civil War, and after Emancipation. Iola Leroy adopts and adapts three genres that commanded significant audiences in the nineteenth century: the sentimental romance, the slave narrative, and plantation fiction. Written by the foremost black woman activist of the nineteenth century, the novel sheds light on the movements for abolition, public education, and voting rights through a compelling narrative.
This edition engages the latest research on Harper’s life and work and offers ways to teach these major moments in United States history by centering the experiences of African Americans. The appendices provide primary documents that help readers do what they are seldom encouraged to do: consider the experiences and perspectives of people who are not white. The Introduction traces Harper’s biography and the changing critical perspectives on the novel.
“Edited by one of the finest scholars of American literature, this Broadview edition of the much beloved, popular nineteenth-century classic Iola Leroy commands new attention and demonstrates fresh relevance. Koritha Mitchell elegantly argues for the merits of this early novel as an African American community text, based on its aesthetic qualities, the political currents that shaped it, and the material realities of its production, circulation, and readership. Appendices of thoughtfully curated secondary sources that privilege the firsthand testimonies of early African Americans about emancipatory, intellectual, social, and cultural matters, and that feature more creative and critical selections by Harper, bring distinction to this teachable, accessible edition. If one wishes to understand how the aftermath of enslavement has influenced and continues to shape the African American literary tradition and national conversations among and about African Americans, the Broadview edition of Iola Leroy is a necessary place to begin.” — Barbara McCaskill, University of Georgia
“Koritha Mitchell gives us the definitive edition of Iola Leroy, a novel that reflects the mature insight and creative prowess of teacher, activist, and writer Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Readers are guided through this compelling saga of post–Civil War race, gender, class, and politics by Mitchell’s patient, expert hand. Her original interpretations are enriched by careful attention to the important debates that have always surrounded Harper’s work. Return to this edition again and again to discover the many meanings embedded in Iola Leroy and in Harper’s gifted prose.” — Martha S. Jones, Johns Hopkins University
“Koritha Mitchell’s Broadview Press edition is a triumph and a gift to the field. Her critical work in this volume ensures that generations of readers will recognize the novel as a touchstone in their literary educations and imaginations.… Like all the best critical and cultural editions, it serves as a model for the kind of scholarship we want to write and help our students to write. The contextual materials that bookend Mitchell’s introduction and the novel itself serve not only as citations for her critical throughlines but also as an invitation to readers to be more aware of how they read texts through one another. Mitchell has produced an unparalleled resource that positions Iola Leroy as a definitive text, and her editorial provocation urges us to keep reading, rereading, and reconsidering this novel.” —Mollie Barnes, Legacy
“Koritha Mitchell’s new cultural edition of Harper’s fourth novel, Iola Leroy; Or, Shadows of Uplift (first published in 1892), provides a compelling new entry in this tradition and an indispensable resource for those who assign Harper regularly or who have hesitated to teach Iola out of concern for the syllabus space required to get students up to speed on its historical and cultural contexts. Mitchell’s introduction on its own is worth the price of admission, as it synthesizes the latest work in Harper studies and situates Iola within it. … In addition to her biographical and bibliographic work, Mitchell offers a fresh take on Iola’s form and politics. Iola, Mitchell posits, ‘exemplifies the dynamism and complexity of … “community conversation” … the broad, dynamic discussions among African Americans about the countless issues affecting community members’ life chances and well-being’ (30). Throughout, Mitchell foregrounds Harper’s abiding faith in black communities and incisive critiques of white supremacy.
“Mitchell’s critical apparatus speaks to previous scholars’ monumental efforts to make Harper studies a robust field. It speaks also to an ethics of citation that should be emulated. This cultural edition offers the nineteenth century in a box, robust enough to anchor a course in which Iola represents either the ‘early’ or ‘late’ text. Mitchell’s attention to the intersections of form, literary history, and politics make it an ideal edition for graduate seminars, exam lists, and research, as well.” — Derrick R. Spires, African American Review