Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl

by Tonya Bolden

Tonya Bolden examines what it was like to be a member of New York City’s “striving”... read more

Tonya Bolden examines what it was like to be a member of New York City’s “striving” class of blacks in the mid-1800s through the life of Maritcha Rémond Lyons. Bolden first learned about Maritcha from the brief memoir, Memories of Yesterdays , which the retired principal wrote in 1928. She did extensive research to uncover additional details about Maritcha’s life and the times in which she lived. Marticha was born a free black in New York. While she was growing up, her parents ran a boardinghouse and helped shelter runaway slaves from the south as part of the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, a riot in New York City saw poor whites, upset at being drafted, turn against blacks in the city. Maritcha’s home was ransacked and she and her family fled. Eventually they settled in Providence, Rhode Island. Education had been the emphasis of Maritcha’s childhood. In Providence, Maritcha and her parents had to fight the school district for her right to attend the previously all-white high school. Bolden’s narrative provides an important look at the life of free blacks prior to the Civil War, an aspect of African American history that is rarely covered in books for children and teens, while highlighting the life of a remarkable young woman. The volume includes numerous photographs of Maritcha and her extended family as well as reproductions of many other historical materials. (Ages 9–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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