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Unjustly overlooked in its own time, Frank J. Webb’s novel of pre-Civil War Philadelphia weaves together action, humor, and social commentary.The Garies and Their Friends tells the story of two families struggling for different sorts of respectability: the Garies, a well-to-do interracial couple who relocate to Philadelphia from the plantation South in order to legalize their marriage, and their friends the Ellises, free black Philadelphians hoping to make the move from the working class into the bourgeoisie. Along the way the families confront racialized violence, melodramatic villainy, and sentimental reversals. Entertaining and fast-moving, the novel has a Dickensian mix of uncanny coincidence and interwoven personal experiences.
The historical documents accompanying this Broadview Edition provide reviews of the novel along with extensive materials on slavery, the color line, and contemporary Philadelphia.