Focusing on the figure of the girl, Nazera Sadiq Wright’s Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century and Renée M. Sentilles’s American Tomboys, 1850–1915 critically reexamine the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and female citizen formation. Undergirding Wright’s and Sentilles’s studies of nineteenth-century girlhood is a shared emphasis on the kinds of stories that can emerge between the literary and nonliterary, between historical record and cultural imagining. Girls and girlhood then emerge for Wright and Sentilles as agents and cultural sites that highlight and interrogate relationships among language, imagination, politics, and identity.

Refuting assumptions about the absence of black girls in the archives, Black Girlhood, keeping with a black intellectual and artistic tradition, testifies to the fact that there is much where we presumed there was nothing. Black Girlhood identifies figures and ideas about black girlhood in a diversity of nineteenth-century texts:...

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