Untangling Human Relations


A few years earlier, in 1874, Tourgee had published his first novel, ‘Toinette: A Novel, under the pseudonym “Henry Churton.” ‘Toinette is a story about a young African American girl that many sources say is based on that of Adeline “Addie” Patillo, who was rescued from enslavement by the Tourgees and raised in their household in North Carolina.Young Addie Patillo may have been part inspiration for Tourgee’s first novel, but was more likely one additional facet of all he had seen of African Americans trying to establish a foothold in a white world, and whose struggles he wrote of. When ‘Toinette was released, it had many favorable reviews, including one from the Methodist Episcopal Church Quarterly (1875). The reviewer observes,

“…the author has exposed the central dilemma in that the war and the end of slavery was not the end of efforts but a beginning in the American attempt to undo all that the years of enslavement had brought to bear in social, cultural and political values…the author does not portray enslavement with any sense of malevolence, but rather, casts the slaveholding characters to be as much victims of an abnormal set of human relations.”

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Letter, E. H. Johnson to Albion Winegar Tourgée, 1878-11-16, regarding Tourgee's novel, 'Toinette. Courtesy of Chautauqua County Historical Society.

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