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I told him I was ready to die

Suzanne Scafe, 16 February 1989

Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House 
by Elizabeth Keckley.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505259 5
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The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke 
by Brenda Stevenson.
Oxford, 609 pp., £22.50, July 1988, 0 19 505238 2
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The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Secole in Many Lands 
by Mary Secole.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505249 8
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... These three titles are the first of what will eventually be a 30-volume set of writing by black American women in the 19th century. They are being published in an attempt by the Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture to make more widely available some of their 100,000 bound volumes of writing by black Americans since the 16th century. Despite the legal constraints on reading and writing among slaves, there was a considerable body of work by black people – slaves as well as freemen – even before Emancipation ...

Rosy Revised

Robert Olby: Rosalind Franklin, 20 March 2003

Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... of the Nobel Prize, who carried out their DNA research in the College’s biophysics unit. Brenda Maddox calls this ‘a genuflection bordering on political correctness’. In The Double Helix (1968) James Watson makes clear his personal view of how science should best be done: in a spirit of rivalry and competition, and not one of consensus as to the ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... in its retelling of the Plath-Hughes courtship and marriage – much more so than, say, Anne Stevenson was able to be in her ‘authorised’ biography of Plath, Bitter Fame (1989) – Bate’s book may well go some way to appeasing the ire of those who sought to arraign and convict Hughes for an unspeakable crime. As Bate tells it, Hughes had no need of ...

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