Beyond the Boundaries of Childhood: African American Children in the Antebellum North

Thursday July 8

5:30 PM  –  6:30 PM

Crystal Webster, University of Texas at San Antonio

For all that is known about the depth and breadth of African American history, we still understand surprisingly little about the lives of African American children. But hidden in institutional records, school primers and penmanship books, biographical sketches, and unpublished documents is a rich archive that reveals the social and affective worlds of northern Black children. Crystal Webster argues that young African Americans were frequently left outside the nineteenth century's emerging constructions of both race and childhood. They were marginalized in the development of schooling, ignored in debates over child labor, and presumed to lack the inherent innocence ascribed to white children. But Webster shows that Black children nevertheless carved out physical and social space for play, for learning, and for their own aspirations.