Notes from a Colored Girl: The Civil War Pocket Diaries of Emilie Frances Davis, by Karsonya Wise Whitehead
In Notes from a Colored Girl, Karsonya Wise Whitehead examines the life and experiences of Emilie Frances Davis, a freeborn twenty-one-year-old mulatto woman, through a close reading of three pocket diaries she kept from 1863 to 1865.
Whitehead explores Davis's worldviews and politics, her perceptions of both public and private events, her personal relationships, and her place in Philadelphia's free black community in the nineteenth century.
Although Davis's daily entries are sparse, brief snapshots of her life, Whitehead interprets them in ways that situate Davis in historical and literary contexts that illuminate nineteenth-century black American women's experiences.
Whitehead's contribution of edited text and original narrative fills a void in scholarly documentation of women who dwelled in spaces between white elites, black entrepreneurs, and urban dwellers of every race and class.
Since there are few primary sources written by black women during this time in history, Davis's diary, though ordinary in its content, is rendered extraordinary simply because it has survived to be included in this very small class of resources. Whitehead's extensive analysis illuminates the lives of many through the simple words of one.
“It cannot be emphasized enough how important Davis's journals are to forwarding the study of nineteenth-century social history. Whitehead delivers a rare gem for readers in her well-written, well-researched work that will resonate with those interested in sociocultural history, Civil War-era history, African American history, women's history, or diaries and autobiographies. An absolute must-read.” - Library Journal
“Providing a coherent, cogent record of 19th-century life, this volume moves a woman of color from obscurity to significance.” - Choice