Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America 1st Edition
by Kali Nicole Gross
Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 3, 2016) 978-0190241216
Hannah Mary Tabbs was working woman in the 1880’s who rose to notoriety when she was identified as the woman who rode a ferry from Philadelphia to the outer suburbs late one night and chucked a large parcel over a bridge into the river. The parcel was later found to contain the limbless and headless body of her former lover. Cue scary music.

Historical accounts of the lives of black women are so rare that I had to pick this one up. Our lives were not thought to be of note for quite some time in this country and full literacy for people of color has yet to be achieved in 2017 so you know that we weren’t journaling by and large in the 1880’s. Finding a black woman’s voice before the turn of the century is finding a rare jewel indeed. Especially, in light of the fact that I’m just beginning some research on a historical novel I’ve had brewing in my brain for a good while now. While the gritty details might titlate the true crime set I was disappointed with the lack of compare and contrast between Hannah and other everyday black women. I wanted to know how propriety was handled in the Victorian era of such repression that buffered against the era of slavery, where rape was common, relationships could be torn apart and sex outside of wedlock was more common than not. Did black folk, and black women especially live with a level of shame at all times or was the culture more forgiving? I wanted more information and I was definitely disappointed with the inordinate amount of notes at the end. It made it feel more like a dissertation than a quick read.

This Book is Perfect For:

  • History buffs of all kinds
  • True crime aficionados
  • Philadelphians who want to know a bit more about their city
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