Cover image for A treasury of African-American Christmas stories. Volume II
A treasury of African-American Christmas stories. Volume II
Collier-Thomas, Bettye.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt, 1999.
Physical Description:
xix, 262 pages ; 17 cm
Christmas Greetings / Georgia Douglas Johnson -- A carol of color / Mary Jenness -- The autobiography of a dollar bill / Lelia Plummer -- Mollie's best Christmas gift / Mary E. Lee -- A Christmas story / Carrie Jane Thomas -- Fannie May's Christmas / Katherine Davis Tillman -- A Christmas sketch / Mildred E. Lambert -- Found after thirty-five years - Lucy Marshall's letter - a true story for Christmas / J.B. Moore Bristor -- The blue and the gray / Augustus M. Hodges -- The test of manhood: a Christmas story / Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins -- Thou shalt be / J.B. Howard -- General Washington: a Christmas story / Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins -- Three Christmas Eves / Augustus M. Hodges -- For love of him: a Christmas story / Frederick W. Burch -- The woman: a Christmas story / Margaret Black -- How I won my husband: a Christmas story / Eva S. Purdy -- It came to pass: a Christmas story / Bruce L. Reynolds -- A Christmas journey / Louis Lorenzo Redding -- One Christmas Eve / Langston Hughes -- Santa Claus is a white man / John Henrik Clarke.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS509.C56 T73 1999 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Holiday
PS509.C56 T73 1999 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS509.C56 T73 1999 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PS509.C56 T73 1999 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

On Order



Few children's classics can match the charm and originality of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden , the unforgettable story of sullen, sulky Mary Lennox, "the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen." When a cholera epidemic leaves her as an orphan, Mary is sent to England to live with her reclusive uncle, Archibald Craven, at Misselthwaite Manor. Unloved and unloving, Mary wanders the desolate moors until one day she chances upon the door of a secret garden. What follows is one of the most beautiful tales of transformation in children's literature, as Mary her sickly and tyrannical cousin Colin and a peasant boy named Dickson secretly strive to make the garden bloom once more.

A unique blend of realism and magic, The Secret Garden remains a moving expression of every child's need to nurture and be nurtured-a story that has captured for all time the rare and enchanted world of childhood.

From the Paperback edition.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Collier-Thomas' inspiring collection of 18 stories and 2 poems explores the significance of Christmas to African Americans and their embrace of Christianity, with its hope of a better afterlife and recognition of long-suffering faith. Like her previous compilation, this book offers a distinct African American orientation on the holiday and the religion it celebrates. The works, originally published in black newspapers and periodicals between 1882 and 1939, embrace traditional themes but don't shrink from timely and controversial concerns about slavery, lynching, miscegenation, and spiritual hypocrisy in the context of celebrating the Christian season. Some pieces reconstruct the traditional Christmas images of a jolly, white Santa Claus or a white Christ. Collier-Thomas introduces each piece with a short sketch of the author and the work. The collection includes stories by famous authors, such as Pauline Hopkins, Augustus M. Hodges, and John Henrik Clarke, and relatively unknown authors, such as Lelia Plummer, Eva S. Purdy, and Bruce Reynolds. Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Far from a roll call of famous quotations and annotated sentimentality, this cross section of little-known turn-of-the-century newspaper and magazine pieces reflects the holiday's particular, longstanding significance for African Americans. The pieces range from reflective Christmas poems ("The Christmas Reunion Down at Martinsville") and a controversial cliffhanger about racism that created dissent in the Indianapolis black community when it was serialized in 1903 ("Three Men and a Woman"), to moral parables ("The Prodigal Daughter: A Story of Three Christmas Eves"). Helpful biographical sketches introduce the authors, discuss their prevailing themes and their influence on black society and culture. The all but forgotten pioneers include Pauline Hopkins, Fanny Barrier Williams, T. Thomas Fortune, Augustus M. Hodges and Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson (wife of the poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar). This substantive anthology makes a contribution both as cultural study and as literature. The design and format‘12 line drawings; padded case cover; printed end papers; ribbon marker‘signals the publisher's confidence that the book will find an appreciative audience. 50,000 first printing. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Christmas Greetings * * * Georgia Douglas Johnson Georgia Douglas Johnson * * * Georgia Douglas Johnson, born on September 10, 1877, in Atlanta, Georgia, was hailed as a significant literary figure by 1923. A graduate of the Atlanta University Normal School, in 1903 she married Henry Lincoln Johnson, a prominent attorney and Republican politician. In 1910, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Henry established a law practice and in 1912 was appointed Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia by President William Howard Taft. Washington, D.C., with a highly educated and cosmopolitan African-American community and as the location of Howard University, was the catalyst that spurred Johnson to begin a literary career. She gained recognition in 1916 with the publication of three of her poems in Crisis , the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and in 1918 with the publication of her first book of poetry, The Heart of a Woman . Initially criticized for her failure to explore racial themes, in 1922 Johnson published a book of poetry titled Bronze: A Book of Verse that addressed the issues of miscegenation and racism. In 1923 she wrote "Christmas Greetings" for the Christmas issue of Opportunity , the magazine of the National Urban League. In this poem, Johnson compares the suffering of Jesus Christ with that of African-Americans. Christmas Greetings * * * Come, brothers, lift on high your voice, The Christ is born, let us rejoice! And for all mankind let us pray, Forgetting wrongs upon this day. He was despised, and so are we, Like Him we go to Calvary; He leads us by his bleeding hand, Through ways we may not understand. Come, brothers, lift on high your voice, The Christ is born, let us rejoice! Shall we not to the whole world say-- God bless you! It is Christmas Day! Carol of Color * * * Mary Jenness Mary Jenness * * * In the original introduction to "A Carol of Color," Mary Jenness explained that the poem is written from the point of view of people of color, or "as the brown races see it." Pointing to the Christian tradition made familiar by the story of Ben Hur, she emphasized "that the three wise men came from Egypt, India, and Greece; thus typifying the worship of the Christ-child by the black, brown and white races." Published in Opportunity in 1927 during the Harlem Renaissance, "A Carol of Color" asserts that Jesus Christ was black or brown. It was during the time of the Harlem Renaissance that some African-Americans began to challenge the notion and image of a white Christ. Using biblical scripture that included, among other things, physical descriptions of Christ, the argument was made that Christ was black.     Although we know little about Mary Jenness, her "Carol of Color" reflects the "New Negro" ideology that emerged in the 1920s and explains black history, religion, and color in a positive vein. Carol of Color * * * "I may not sleep in Bethlehem, Your inns would turn me back-- Because," said Balthazar, unsmiling, "My skin is black." "I may not eat in Bethlehem, Your inns would frown me down, Because," said Melchior, uncomplaining, "My skin is brown." "Alone I ride to Bethlehem, Alone I there alight, Because," cried Gaspar, all unheeding, "My skin is white." Not one, nor two, but three they came, To kneel at Bethlehem, And there a brown-faced Christ-child, laughing, Welcomed them. The Autobiography of a Dollar Bill * * * Lelia Plummer Lelia Plummer * * * "The Autobiography of a Dollar Bill" was published in the Colored American Magazine in December 1904. Little is known about Plummer since many of the early black newspapers and periodicals provided little or no biographical information on contributors.     "The Autobiography of a Dollar Bill" is a mixture of allegory and fantasy, describing the journey of "Mr. Dollar Bill." The story proposes a journey akin to the American slave experience, from the feelings of race memory, terror, landlessness, and claustrophobia during the Middle Passage to the severance of relations and relationships with the "ding, click" of the slave trade. Utilizing Christmas as a vehicle, and the dollar bill as a metaphor for the slave, Plummer examines the African experience in America. The dollar bill, like the slave, was a commodity that was constantly being traded, and both go through a succession of owners and have a myriad of experiences. Plummer explores the issues of bondage, status, self-definition, self-assertion, hope, and survival through "Mr. Dollar Bill" as he tells his story to a streetsmart, homeless urchin named Jackie. As a benevolent owner, Jackie wants to keep his valuable possession, but circumstances dictate that this is impossible as he intends to treat himself to "pleasures" on Christmas Day. Thus, this valuable property must be passed on to a new owner in order for Jackie to improve his wretched condition.     Perhaps Plummer read and used as a model The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789). In his revealing account of his experiences in slavery and freedom, Gustavus Vassa tells of his African heritage, being kidnapped, being sold to slave traders, his experience in the Middle Passage, the American plantation, and acculturation in America. Plummer's use of "Mr. Dollar Bill" in the role of a griot suggests how the oral tradition functioned to acculturate Africans to American slavery and to preserve African heritage among the enslaved. "Mr. Dollar Bill" tells of the experience of being surrounded by "heaps of others just like me"; being placed in a "great big, hollow, cold place"; being "snatched" and "plunged into darkness"; and conversing with elders who told him of their varied experiences in a bewildering world of uncertainty and confinement. The Autobiography of a Dollar Bill * * * It was Christmas Eve. The earth was covered with a white fluffy mantle. The snow gleamed brightly on the branches of the frozen trees, where a few brown little sparrows chirped cheerfully. The houses were covered with snow, and every few minutes might be heard the merry ringing of sleigh bells.     "Hullo" said ragged Jackie. "This is the kind of a Christmas for me, none o' yur mild dripping Christmases is this, but a good old-timer." The shivering little urchin addressed replied, that "As for them that has fires, a snowy Christmas [is] all right," but he was cold. "Anyway," he concluded, "it ain't Christmas, it's only Christmas Eve, and I want to know what you're going to do when Christmas really comes?"     "Well," said Jackie, "just now I'm goin' to sell my papers and earn some stray cash; then I'm goin' to that little corner of the bridge and cuddle down, and to-morrer, I'll treat myself with my cash." So away he trudged, crying "Paper here, sir, DAILY NEWS, and special Christmas numbers!" But few seemed to hear the little one, so intent were all upon their Christmas shopping. But suddenly in crossing the street, Jackie lost his footing and nearly fell under the heels of a dashing pair of horses, which were drawing an elegant equipage up the street. The coachman sprang down and kindly raised the little arab in his arms. "Why youngster, you want to be careful! Are you hurt?" Then the carriage door opened and a kind face looked out upon little Jackie, who was endeavoring to wrest himself from the coachman's arms.     "Are you hurt, little fellow?" a sweet voice asked. "No um" responded the blushing Jackie. Then seeing his rags, a kind hand drew forth some money from a bag and slipped it into the newsboy's hand. The coachman took his seat, and in a moment the carriage had passed on.     Jackie gazed upon the money in his dirty little hand, scarcely able to believe his own eyes. Yes, in that brown little palm lay a clear, crisp one dollar bill. Jackie hugged himself with delight, and clasping his dollar closely, danced off to resume his efforts to sell his papers. But people did not bother with Jackie any more that day, and when night came he had not sold one paper. Nevertheless his heart felt very light and he was happy. Many, many times during the day he had stolen a glance at the crisp little bill; and now when the bright and beautiful lights began to appear in the city street, he rushed off to his little niche in the bridge where he was pleased to curl himself up for the night. "This here's better'n them old homes where you'r all tucked and cuddled like a girl" he used to say to his young companions. There he cuddled down, still hugging closely his precious dollar bill and thinking of the pleasures it would bring him Christmas day. Suddenly, to his surprise, he heard a squeaking little voice call "Jackie, say Jackie!" Jackie rubbed his eyes and looked around. He saw no one. Suddenly it came again, and this time Jackie did not look for it, but said, "All right, here I am; what do you want anyway?"     "See here, Jackie," the voice continued, "I'm Mr. Dollar Bill and I want to tell you all about me. But hug me up nice and tight, for night is cold." Jackie tightened his clutch upon the precious bill. "Now, I first sprang into this world of wonderful things in a place where I saw heaps of others just like me. Oh my, there were so many of them that my eyes just ached! And there were round little men who were very bright looking but kept very humble before me, for they seemed to know that they were not half so good or valuable as I.     "Then there were some little silvery things, whom we called, `little dimes,' and I believe there were more of them than any of us could ever imagine. Well, I stayed in this a good while, until I got really tired; at last somebody far larger and better clothed than you, Jackie, took me and put me in a great big, hollow, cold place. If I had been alone I would not have liked it at all, but there were lots of others just like me, only none of the shining things were there. I asked some of the more important men what it meant and they said `Little ones were to be seen and not heard' and that I must live and learn. But I was not there long, for a great broad hand came and hauled me out. I felt myself being whirled through the air for a few moments, then I was suddenly plunged into utter darkness. Ah Jackie! that was a black moment for me. I could not tell where I was. For a long while I felt as if I were moving. Then suddenly, I was whisked out again and put into a little, wee box and felt myself scudding along at a terrific rate. I wondered where I was going. I was snatched from there just as suddenly, but before I was again plunged into darkness, I caught a gleam of bright and pretty things and a great moving mass of people. Jackie, where was I?"     "Oh I guess somebody went to do some Christmas shopping as they call it, with you and took you into one of those beautiful stores."     "Very good" replied the bill complacently. "You're not a bad little chap for your age, Jackie, not at all. Well, to proceed with my tale, I met there an old friend, Jackie. Yes, my boy, an old friend, for I myself have had so many travels that I am beginning to feel old, though I look so bright and new. The last time I had seen him was when we lay in a great box together. He recognized me instantly and I began to talk to him. `Hullo, old fellow!' I said, `Here we are again. Now where have you been?' Then I noticed that beside him lay a very old and tattered gentleman, at whom I was inclined to turn up my nose, but bless me, Jackie, my friend seemed more inclined to notice the old one than he did me, the bright, the new and pretty. Just then came a ring and a click and my friend was gone.     "Then the old tattered fellow looked at me seriously and soberly for a few minutes, and began, `An old fellow like myself, youngster, is really more valuable than a young one, like you. Oh I young ignorance, if you only knew the many and varied tales I could tell! Ha ha! youngster, you look as if you thought you knew something.' Then I [blushed] and looked down, for do you know, Jackie, I didn't just like the way the fellow was talking. But he kept on. `Why, green one, I have travelled across rough waters, over green fields. I have been in the home of the rich, where there were many, many more like myself, and I have been in the homes of the poor, where there were none like myself. Little one, I have been where all was innocence and purity, and likewise where all was crime. Yes I have been snatched from wallets by crime-stained hands and been in the pockets of noted criminals. What phase of life have I not seen? I have been the poor man's joy, the miser's hoard, and until I fall in pieces, I shall continue to travel these rounds.' Ding, click! My acquaintance was gone.     "There were lots of other bills there, who, I do not doubt, were worthy of my notice, but really, Jackie, that last wonderful fellow had scarcely gone, when rude hands snatched me, sped me through space, and once more consigned me to gloom. But I did not mind the darkness so much this time, for I reflected upon the old one's story and hoped that I might live to be the ragged, worn old fellow he was. You see so much more of life, Jackie. While I studied and thought, I could hear sweet voices speaking and suddenly a kindlier and gentler hand gave me into your keeping. Some way or other I took a fancy to you directly. You seemed to treat a fellow as if he had some feeling and you had some consideration for it. I really like you, Jackie, and when Christmas morning comes and I am leaving you, for I suppose I must, do not grieve for I shall always be on the watch for you again."     "Oh no, You shall never go," cried Jackie with energy. He gave a start and sprang to his feet. It was early, early in the blessed Christmas morning and already the bells were chiming the birth of the Babe at Bethlehem. How they rang in Jackie's ears and heart.     "What! have I been dreaming all this? Not a bit of it! I heard that dollar just as plain as I hear these bells and I know that even if I part with my dear old bill, he'll be on the lookout for me and some day I'll have him again." Copyright © 1999 Bettye Collier-Thomas. All rights reserved.