The Curse of Caste, or the Slave Bride
by Julia C. Collins
In 1865, The Christian Recorder, the national newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, serialized The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride, a novel written by Julia C. Collins, an African American woman living in the small town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The Curse of Caste is arguably the first novel ever published by a black American woman as previous works by female African-American writers were autobiographical in nature. Set in antebellum Louisiana and Connecticut, Collins' novel focuses on the lives of a beautiful mixed-race mother and daughter whose opportunities for fulfillment through love and marriage are threatened by slavery and caste prejudice.
The text shares much with popular nineteenth-century women's fiction, while its dominant themes of interracial romance, hidden African ancestry, and ambiguous racial identity have parallels in the writings of both black and white authors from the period.
Begun in the waning months of the Civil War, the novel was near its conclusion when Julia Collins died of tuberculosis in November of 1865. Unfortunately, the novel was unfinished, but it still stands as one of the most important works in the history of African-American literature.