The Stones of the Village by Alice Dunbar Nelson (Audiobook)
Read by Darrell Joe (Unabridged: 56mins)
Alice Ruth Moore was born on 19th July 1875 in New Orleans where she was part of the multi-racial Creole community. She was the first generation seemingly born free after the Civil War and unusually for the times, obtained a university education which led to her becoming a teacher at a public school in New Orleans.
In 1895, when she was 20, she published her first collection of short stories and poems, ‘Violets and Other Tales’, and moved to New York City where she co-founded and taught at the White Rose Mission, a Home for Girls.
Alice was always politically active and sought to advance the position of black women. She began work as a journalist at the Woman’s Era newspaper where her work was seen by the established poet and journalist Paul Laurence Dunbar. After corresponding for two years she joined him in Washington DC and they married in 1898.
It was a difficult relationship, due mainly to Dunbar’s fragile health, alcoholism and depression. After a severe beating she left him and moved to Delaware to teach for a decade though took time out to enroll at Cornell University.
A short-lived marriage to Henry A. Callis, a physician and professor at Howard University ended in divorce and she became co-editor and writer for an influential publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. A third marriage to civil rights activist Robert J. Nelson came about, as did affairs with several women, notably the activist Fay Jackie Robinson.
In Wilmington Delaware she and her husband devoted their time and writings to working for equality for African Americans and women’s suffrage.
Alice Dunbar Nelson was a natural and gifted writer across many genres, from novels, essays, plays to diaries, criticism, poetry and of course short stories, of which ‘Stones in the Village’ is a fine example. The protagonist, like herself, is light skinned from New Orleans, which allows for a social mobility and a unique position in American society that Dunbar Nelson captures with an imagination and insight to explores another divisive perspective on race. It is unsurprising that Alice was a prominent part of the early Harlem Renaissance and influenced many others including Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen.
Alice and her husband moved to Philadelphia in 1932 and it was here that she died on 18th September 1935, at the age of 60, from a heart ailment.