Barriers between Us
Interracial Sex in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
Publication Year: 2004
This provocative book examines the representation of characters of mixed African and European descent in the works of African American and European American writers of the 19th century. The importance of mulatto figures as agents of ideological exchange in the American literary tradition has yet to receive sustained critical attention. Going beyond Sterling Brown's melodramatic stereotype of the mulatto as "tragic figure," Cassandra Jackson's close study of nine works of fiction shows how the mulatto trope reveals the social, cultural, and political ideas of the period. Jackson uncovers a vigorous discussion in 19th-century fiction about the role of racial ideology in the creation of an American identity. She analyzes the themes of race-mixing, the "mulatto," nation building, and the social fluidity of race (and its imagined biological rigidity) in novels by James Fenimore Cooper, Richard Hildreth, Lydia Maria Child, Frances E. W. Harper, Thomas Detter, George Washington Cable, and Charles Chesnutt.
Blacks in the Diaspora -- Claude A. Clegg III,
Darlene Clark Hine, David Barry Gaspar, and John McCluskey, founding editors
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Blacks in the Diaspora
I am deeply indebted to many colleagues whose guidance contributed to the production of this book. I thank my advisor, Frances Smith Foster, whose advice and advocacy were critical to the birth of this book. I am also grateful to Mary Loeffelholz, whose precise and prompt responses to my work became the lens through which I learned that this project was indeed a book. I would like to thank Wayne Franklin for graciously allowing me to read his...
In Frances E. W. Harper’s novel Iola Leroy (1892), a white suitor proposes marriage to the nearly white title character, and she responds: “There are barriers between us that I cannot pass.”¹ Harper’s representation of barriers between these visibly white but theoretically racially different lovers suggests that race consisted not of phenotypic differences but rather prescribed classifications that define the legislative, civic, and social landscape of the...
1.The Last of the Mohicans or the First of the Mulattos? Slavery and Native American Removal in Cooper’s American Frontier
In April of 1831, the confluence of removal and slavery was captured in thenew masthead of the antislavery newspaper The Liberator. Only four months after the paper’s first publication, William Lloyd Garrison added a picture that depicted a slave sale on its masthead. Distraught slaves collect at the picture’s center, while interested consumers surround them. Trampled beneath...
2. A Land without Names Names: National Anxiety in The Slave; or, Memoirs of Archy Moore
In a letter addressed to The Liberator, antislavery activist and author Lydia Maria Child wrote of Richard Hildreth’s antislavery novel The Slave; or, Memoirs of Archy Moore (1836): “If I were a man, I would rather be the author of that work, than anything ever published in America.”¹ It is ironic that the book almost remained unpublished in America. According to Hildreth, he could not find a publisher for his...
3. Reconstructing America in Lydia Maria Child's A Romance of the Republic and Frances E. W. Harper's Minnie's Sacrifice
The quest to build a new nation during the Reconstruction era encouraged interest in a character that engaged the most pressing issue of the period, the role of race in the swiftly changing new union. Between 1865 and 1870, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution outlawed slavery, conferred civil rights to African Americans under the law, and granted suffrage to black men. Still, the question of what role blacks would...
4. Doubles in Eden in George Washington Cable's The Grandissimes
After the Reconstruction era ended and political control returned to the South in 1877, writers of mulatto fiction confronted a nation seeking new ways to redefine the social order. Law and custom continued to inform and be informed by the myth of race. Laws were enacted to ensure racial segregation and prohibit the civil rights of blacks. In addition, lynching terrorized African Americans, demonstrating...
5. "I will gladly share with them my richer heritage": Schoolteachers in Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy and Charles Chesnutt’s Mandy Oxendine
While George Washington Cable’s treatment of mixed-race characters suggests that black communities might become forceful agents of change, the work of African-American writers during the post-Reconstruction age more thoroughly addresses the function of black activism in challenging racial classification in the United States. Frances E. W. Harper’s Iola Leroy, published in 1892,...
Epilogue: Formulating a National Self
It should not be surprising that mixed-race characters engaged the discourse of nation and citizenship in the United States. One need only consider how the U.S. census has grappled with the categorization of mixed-race peoples to recognize how race continues to be integral to defining national identities, histories, and social agendas. Indeed, the history of the attempts of the...