Stolen Childhood: Slave Youth in Nineteenth-Century America

Wilma King (Author)


One of the most important books published on slave society, Stolen Childhood focuses on the millions of children and youth enslaved in 19th-century America. This enlarged and revised edition reflects the abundance of new scholarship on slavery that has emerged in the 15 years since the first edition. While the structure of the book remains the same, Wilma King has expanded its scope to include the international dimension with a new chapter on the transatlantic trade in African children, and the book's geographic boundaries now embrace slave-born children in the North. She includes data about children owned by Native Americans and African Americans, and presents new information about children's knowledge of and participation in the abolitionist movement and the interactions between enslaved and free children.

Product Details

Indiana University Press
Publish Date
June 29, 2011
6.37 X 9.1 X 1.25 inches | 1.6 pounds

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About the Author

Wilma King is Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor in African-American History and Culture at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she holds a joint appointment in the Black Studies Program and Department of History. Her books include The Essence of Liberty: Free Black Women during the Slave Era; We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible: A Reader in Black Women's History (edited with Darlene Clark Hine and Linda Reed); A Northern Woman in the Plantation South: Letters of Tryphena Blanche Holder Fox, 1856-1876; Children of the Emancipation; and Toward the Promised Land: From Uncle Tom's Cabin to the Onset of the Civil War, 1851-1861.


"[Until] the appearance of this book, no monograph had focused exclusively on the many topics relating to the enslaved young.April 1997"

--American Historical Review

"Stolen Childhood is a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on the slave experience in the United States."

--History of Education Quarterly

"King's deeply researched, well-written, passionate study places children and young adults at center stage in the North American slave experience."


"[T]his is an ambitious book that not only pioneered the history of African-American child slavery, but also made a significant impact on the discourse addressing slavery in the USA more generally... a masterful work."

--Slavery and Abolition

"Drawing on extensive new scholarship and sources, [King] adds significant new demographic information regarding slave children and broadens her scope to include slave children born in the North and in urban centers.... Essential."


"Stolen Childhood mines the major American archives in order to present the ways in which enslaved men and women created a semblance of family life and cultural heritage."

--Christian Science Monitor

"King has performed a valuable service to the historiographies of slavery and of children. It is important to be reminded that slaves were children before they became the men and women who form our more familiar images of slavery.Summer 1996"

--Register Kentucky Historical Society

"Wilma King has done a service in correcting a major problem in slave history. Her writing style gracefully conveys both the joys and the terrors of youth under slavery."

--Southern Historian

"[King's] cogent general picture offeres a valuable entree into the topic, and provides a sound frame of reference for the temporally or spacially more specific research that her study should generate.39.3 Fall 1998"

--American Studies

"King's work is fresh and accessible. It fills key gaps in scholarship on slavery and would make for a worthwhile read for anyone from the casual reader of history to the scholar."

--Tennessee Libraries

"Stolen Childhood is a wonderful book with manifold strengths of research and analysis."

--Nell Irvin Painter

"Stolen Childhood provides a broad overview of slave childhood throughout the nineteenth-century South and moves beyond the Civil War years to demonstrate that the brutality directed against enslaved children did not end with emancipation.May 2000"

--Journal of Southern History

"King provides a jarring snapshot of children living in bondage. This compellingly written work is a testament to the strength and resilience of the children and their parents."


"[King] takes an enormous step toward filling some of the voids in the literature of slavery."

--Washington Post Book World

"Wilma King's book is a welcome addition to the literature... The author compares the hardships of slave childhood with those created by war or siege.Fall 1996"


King's deeply researched volume on slave children first appeared to rave reviews in 1995 (CH, Apr'96, 33-4719), establishing her as a leading scholar on African American slavery generally and as an authority on slave youth culture. Slavery's all-encompassing veil, she wrote with passion and verve, enveloped bonded children, circumscribing their formative years, transforming them into chattel laborers, and subjecting them to arbitrary, untoward punishment and deleterious separation from families. King (Univ. of Missouri-Columbia) documented the various farm, industrial, and plantation occupations slave youth practiced and contextualized their lives by explicating their educations and leisure activities--elements that enabled them to survive enslavement and fashion new lives as freed men and women. King's second edition more than doubles the size of the original work. Drawing on extensive new scholarship and sources, she adds significant new demographic information regarding slave children and broadens her scope to include slave children born in the North and in urban centers. King also probes interactions between free, freed, and enslaved children across time and place and details the lives of children owned by African American and Native American slaveholders. Finally, her revised edition includes material on the heretofore-ignored role of slave children in the abolition movement. Indispensible. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. --Choice

--J. D. Smith, University of North Carolina at Charlotte