Waiting for the Verdict

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Davis, Rebecca Harding. Waiting for the Verdict. New York: Sheldon, 1868. Serialized in The Galaxy, February-December 1867. In print: Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Gregg Press, 1968.

Tremendously powerful epic novel, comparable to Eliot or Stowe in its wide-ranging assessment of a nation in crisis. A mulatto slave is adopted by a Quaker woman and in time, passing for white, becomes the eminent surgeon Dr Broderip. Broderip falls in love with white heroine Margaret Conrad, who does not know his racial identity. Meanwhile, the threads of interracial relationships that bind masters and slaves in Broderip's family intertwine fatefully with the progress of the Civil War.

There is no happy ending, because the novel (unlike its contemporary Miss Ravenel's Conversion) is essentially anti-romantic. The book ends with blacks and whites in American alike "waiting for the verdict": hoping to learn whether racial justice will replace the horribly complicated evils of the past.

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