Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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Introduction: Contending Classes, Dividing Lines
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In a private letter written to a friend in January 1900, Boston clubwoman Addie Hamilton Jewell criticized what she considered a controversial subject in Pauline Hopkinsâ€™s historical romance Contending Forces (1900).1 Having heard Hopkins read from the forthcoming novel, Jewell did not object to its themes...
1. The Language of Class: Taxonomy and Respectability in Frances E. W. Harper’s Trial and Triumph and Iola Leroy
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In Frances E. W. Harperâ€™s Iola Leroy (1892), a former bondswomanâ€™s speech draws attention to the criteria African Americans use to judge intraracial differences and the problematized vocabulary through which they express them. The affectionately known â€śAuntâ€ť Linda Salters describes the social relations...
2. Working through Class: The Black Body, Labor, and Leisure in Sutton Griggs’s Overshadowed
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Most memorably and soulfully rendered by twentieth-century singer Mahalia Jackson, the song â€śMay the Work Iâ€™ve Done Speak for Meâ€ť asserts that work constitutes oneâ€™s legacy after the body ceases its labor and nothing more can be said.2 While this spiritualâ€™s sentiments may refer to deeds performed in pursuit...
3. Mapping Class Difference: Space and Social Mobility in Paul L. Dunbar’s Short Fiction
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In the article â€śNegro Society in Washington,â€ť published December 14, 1901, Paul Laurence Dunbar introduces readers of the Saturday Evening Post to urbane African Americans, a sector of the American population seldom featured in the periodicalâ€™s pages. Assuming that his white readers would be unfamiliar...
4. Blood and the Mark of Class: Pauline Hopkins’s Genealogies of Status
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Writing in the African Methodist Episcopal Christian Recorder on January 31, 1889, a contributor argues that African American literature needed to increase the public visibility of the â€śhigh-type Negroâ€ť as distinguished from the black â€ślowest class.â€ť Taking the pseudonym â€śCommon Senseâ€ť to recommend his or her...
5. Classing the Color Line: Class-Passing, Antiracism, and Charles W. Chesnutt
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In a key passage of the address â€śSocial Discrimination,â€ť Charles W. Chesnutt makes a minute syntactical change that registers a critical shift in how Americans could conceptualize discrimination. Exchanging the preposition â€śagainstâ€ť for â€śamong,â€ť he recommends that rather than treating â€ścolored peopleâ€ť as a...
Epilogue: Beyond the Talented Tenth
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W. E. B. Du Boisâ€™s essay â€śThe Talented Tenthâ€ť (1903) offers what has become one of the most (in)famous paradigms for black intraracial class relations. As Du Bois envisioned it, the Talented Tenth comprises an educated cadre of African Americans responsible for mobilizing less privileged blacks toward social...
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My interest in the topic of Dividing Lines grew from my introduction to class studies at Spelman College. I remember Barbara Carterâ€™s â€śRace, Class, and Genderâ€ť course, which awakened my attention to class disparities among African Americans. For motivating me to expand my ideas and my career...
Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Class : Culture