In the Shadow of the Black Beast
African American Masculinity in the Harlem and Southern Renaissances
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Louisiana State University Press
Series: Southern Literary Studies
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
As I have worked on this project over the last few years, I have heard numerous colleagues talk about the isolation involved with the writing process. While I found this to be the case at times with long hours in the library and in front of the computer as the project developed from dissertation to manuscript, ...
Introduction: Literary Renaissance and the Interracial "Sex Factor"
In his autobiography Along This Way (1933), James Weldon Johnson recounts a harrowing experience that nearly cost him his life in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, in 1901. While strolling in the park with a light-skinned African American woman, Johnson was accosted by a group of white state militia. ...
One: Sexual Victims and Black Beasts in the Nineteenth Century
In “The Quadroon’s Story” of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), Harriet Beecher Stowe excoriates the sexual abuses of the slave system. She presents the life of the aging slave Cassy, who has been passed from master to master and repeatedly subjected to their sexual desires. Cursed by her racial identity, her beauty, and the customs of the slave South, ...
Two: One-drop Men in the Shadow of the Beast: Walter White and James Weldon Johnson
Reflecting on the years following World War One, James Weldon Johnson noted in his autobiography that “the number of lynchings was not so high as it had been in former years, but the barbarous manner in which victims were being put to death could not have been surpassed by the fiends in hell.”1 ...
Three: Sexual Transgressions and the Battle at the Racial Border: Schuyler’s Black No More and Faulkner’s Light in August
Lillian Smith’s autobiography expresses her adult outrage at the warped moral instruction she and her fellow white southern children were subjected to as they grew up in the early twentieth century. This “moral junk pile” that she decries as the foundation of their gothic orientation featured debilitating lessons about religion, sex, and race ...
Four: Black Beasts and the Historical Imaginations of Margaret Mitchell and Allen Tate
Ida B. Wells proved prescient in her “concern” for the reputation of southern white women should white men continue to justify lynching with accusations of rape. The shifting image of the white female as it related to mob violence was slow in coming, with years of lynching still to follow Wells’s assertion in 1892, but the antilynching protest ...
Five: The End of the Chaste Icon and the Embrace of the Beast: Caldwell’s Trouble in July and Wright’s Native Son
While the fiction of Margaret Mitchell and Allen Tate gazed toward southern history through the distorting lens of Scottsboro-era sexual fears and was indicative of a reactionary urge to look away from the racial realities of their contemporary South, the Scottsboro incident had the opposite effect on the American Left. ...
Conclusion: Bigger and the Black Beast Revenge Narrative
Rather than an individualized accounting of transgressions against law, Bigger’s trial highlights his crimes (and supposed crimes) as a debate between the voices of radical racism and social justice expressed by Buckley and Max respectively. Max’s claim that “every Negro in America’s on trial out there today” (368) has a degree of validity ...