Born during the Civil War into an affluent family of mixed race—black, white, and Native American—Adella Hunt Logan became a key figure in the fight for voting rights, especially for women of color. An intimate friend of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, an acquaintance and sometime sparring partner of Susan B. Anthony and W.E.B. Du Bois, Adella Hunt Logan was often at the forefront of the battle for racial and gender equality.
In Princess of the Hither Isles: A Black Suffragist’s Story from the Jim Crow South, esteemed historian Adele Logan Alexander, who is Adella Hunt Logan’s grand-daughter, brings this extraordinary woman to life. Alexander has written a category-defying work of history and literary imagination, blending decades of historical research with family lore and inherited knowledge to create a vivid portrait of a little-known woman of exceptional impact.
As a highly educated woman who looked white, considered herself black, and was deeply influenced by her Cherokee grandmother, Adella Hunt Logan both defied and epitomized America’s complex racial story. Alexander recreates Adella Hunt Logan’s sprawling family, whose lives expose, undermine, upend, ignore, and sometimes reinforce the racial ideologies that enmesh them.
The book teems with influential figures—Theodore Roosevelt, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Nella Larson, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sigmund Freud—whose lives and ideas intersect with Adella Hunt Logan’s. These characters are joined by her remarkable family members and friends—a part Cherokee woman whose dramatic rescue of her white-looking African-American son involves a redolent diaper, a hatpin, and a forged document; a white judge in charge of the census who agonizes over whether and how to record his beloved mixed-race daughters; a girl educated at the all-white Emma Willard School who comes to know her black family after her heritage is vengefully revealed; and dozens more. Brutality, love, coercion, empathy, jealousy, violence, loss, achievement, creativity, and courage commingle in this intergenerational chronicle of an extraordinary American family.
Grounded in research and beautifully told, Adella Hunt Logan’s story provides a singular perspective on aspects of American history that are profoundly relevant in our own time:
Adella’s public and private debates—with Susan B. Anthony over racial equality and with Booker T. Washington over gender equality—give us a personal sense of the long and exhausting battle, especially for women of color, against discrimination.
Adella’s central role in the early years of the Tuskegee Institute and her active participation in debates surrounding the mission of America’s historically black colleges and universities offer a new avenue for understanding these institutions.
Adella’s tireless insistence that women of color be included in the quest for suffrage, and her risky efforts to pursue that goal—from passing as white to attend suffrage conventions to publicly defying her husband in her writings—provide new examples of resistance and courage.
Adella’s struggle to balance motherhood, marriage, a demanding career, and a compelling moral mission resonates with the challenges faced by today’s women.
Adella’s grappling with issues related to women’s right to control their own bodies provides insight into the workings of gender, race, and power in American history.
Throughout her dramatic life, Adella Hunt Logan remained powerfully committed to both scholarship and equality (a legacy continued in one of her best-known descendants, the author’s daughter, poet Elizabeth Alexander). Sparkling with detail and informed by Adele Logan Alexander’s deep personal connection to its protagonist, Princess of the Hither Isles, seamlessly blends the tools of both the historian and the storyteller to unveil deep truths about lives too often concealed by history.
Adele Logan Alexander taught for eighteen years at George Washington University. Her publications include Ambiguous Lives: Free Women of Color in Rural Georgia and Homelands and Waterways: The American Journey of the Bond Family, 1846–1926.
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