Neglected Book

Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz, and Kathy Peiss, eds., Love Across the Color Line (1996).

Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz and Kathy Peiss's Love Across the Color Line: The Letters of Alice Hanley to Channing Lewis is a wonderful book to teach with. In 1992, a black lace stocking full of letters fell out of the ceiling of a Northampton, Massachusetts house that was being remodeled. The letters, written in 1907 and 1908, were turned over to journalist Phoebe Mitchell, whose research revealed that they had been by a white working-class woman to her African American lover. In the book, the text of the letters is accompanied by four essays: a brief introduction by Horowitz, Mitchell's account of her discoveries, an exploration of Channing Lewis's African American community in Springfield by Louis Wilson, and Peiss's longer piece exploring Alice Hanley's life and her negotiation of a forbidden love, based both on extensive research in local records and on intensive readings of the letters themselves. Peiss's essay offers students an outstanding object lesson in interpreting primary sources; the letters themselves are intriguing and disturbing.

Recommended by Susan Strasser, University of Delaware

Susan Strasser is Professor of History at the University of Delaware. Her books include Never Done: A History of American Housework (1982), Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market (1989), and Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash (1999).