Characters of Blood
Black Heroism in the Transatlantic Imagination
Publication Year: 2012
Across the centuries, the acts and arts of black heroism have inspired a provocative, experimental, and self-reflexive intellectual, political, and aesthetic tradition. In Characters of Blood, Celeste-Marie Bernier illuminates the ways in which six iconic men and women—Toussaint Louverture, Nathaniel Turner, Sengbe Pieh, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, and Harriet Tubman—challenged the dominant conceptualizations of their histories and played a key role in the construction of an alternative visual and textual archive.
While these figures have survived as symbolic touchstones, Bernier contends that scholars have yet to do justice to their complex bodies of work or their multifaceted lives. Adopting a comparative and transatlantic approach to her subjects’ remarkable life stories, the author analyzes a wealth of creative work—from literature, drama, and art to public monuments, religious tracts, and historical narratives—to show how it represents enslaved heroism throughout the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean. In mapping this black diasporic tradition of resistance, Bernier intends not only to reveal the limitations and distortions on record but also to complicate the definitions of black heroism that have been restricted by ideological boundaries between heroic and anti-heroic sites and sights of struggle.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright
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...2 âN.T. 11 11 31â: Nathaniel Turner, Symbolism, Memorialization, 3 âNo Right to Be a Heroâ: Sengbe Pieh, Resistance, Representation, 5 âA Work of Artâ: Frederick Douglassâs âLiving Parchmentsâ 6 âIâve Seen de Real Tingâ: Harriet Tubman, Performance, Conclusion. âPortals, Containers, Time Capsules, and Bridgesâ: ...
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...1 William Railton, Nelsonâs Column, âengland ex.apects every man 3 Anon., Le Gal. Toussaint-Lâouverture, a qui Gal. Leclerc avait envoyÃ©, 12 James Shef_f_ield, Joseph Cinquez, the Brave Congolese Chief, Who Prefers 13 John Childs, Joseph Cinque Addressing His Compatriots on Board the 16 Anon., frontispiece, Narrative of Sojourner Truth, a Northern Slave, ...
preface “suppose nat turner painted?”
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Across the centuries, acts and arts of black heroism have inspired a pro-vocative, experimental, and self-ref_lexive intellectual, political, and aesthetic tradition. At war with monolithic conceptualizations of black diasporic his-tories, the lives and works of six iconic African, African American, and Afri-can Caribbean men and womenâToussaint Louverture, Nathaniel Turner, ...
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T_his book is writ_ten with heartfelt thanks to Judie Newman, whose friendship, kindness, generosity, and inspirational intellectual rigor brought this book to life. I would also like to thank Cathie Bret_tschneider and Su-san Castillo for their wonderful expertise and much-treasured guidance, without which this book would not have been possible. I am enormously ...
1 ]introduction “their namescolonized off” remembering andreimagining black heroism
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...âOn a beautiful morning in the month of June, while strolling about Tra- falgar Square, I was at_tracted to the base of the Nelson column, where a crowd was standing gazing at the bas-relief representations of some of the great naval exploits of the man whose statue stands on the top of the pillar.â So writes the nineteenth-century enslaved African American fugitive turned ...
chapter 1 “i shed my blood”toussaint louverture, myth,history, and the transatlanticimagination
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On November 4, 1941, Ralph Ellison published âMister Toussanâ in a rad-ical magazine titled the New Masses. As a dramatic engagement with white of_f_icial history and black oral folk culture, Ellisonâs short story establishes the fundamental role played by black male heroism in the lives of his impov-erished Black child protagonists, Riley and Buster. Re-created as a mythical ...
chapter 2 “n.t. 11 11 31” nathaniel turner,symbolism, memorialization, and anexperimental poetics
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...hearts of gold.â So reads the inscription carved onto the base of a Confederate memorial close to the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, in the American South. T_his edif_ice starkly memorializes a horrifying history of ra-cial terrorism in defense of white masculinity by exalting in the âknightliest of the knightly raceâ as custodians of the âlamp of chivalry.â As recently as ...
chapter 3 “no right to be a hero”sengbe pieh, resistance, representation,and the politics of seeing
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...âTo commemorate the heroism of the Amistad Africans and those who shared in their quest for freedom, [in] 1989 [the] Amistad Commit_tee com-missioned this sculpture by Ed Hamilton and dedicated it on September 26 1992.â So reads the stone let_tering incised on the granite base of the Afri-can American artist Ed Hamiltonâs bronze monument commemorating the ...
chapter 4 “tickety-ump-ump-nickynacky” re-creating, reknowing, andrefiguring sojourner truth
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As recently as April 2009, the Black female sculptor Artis Laneâs bronze bust of Sojourner Truth made history as the f_irst work representing an Afri-can American woman to be unveiled before audiences at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC. Worlds away from the centuries-old circula-tion of the body and face of the half-naked Black female enslaved woman ...
chapter 5 “a work of art”frederick douglass’s “living parchments”and “chattel records”
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Five Great American Negroes, a work painted by the Black artist Charles White between 1939 and 1940, is one of his most famous history murals (see plate 8). White was inspired to create this large-scale, aggrandized spectacle of black cultural and political resistance by a newspaper survey in which Black readers selected Sojourner Truth, Booker T. Washington, Mar-...
chapter 6 “i’ve seen de real ting”harriet tubman, performance, andmultiple personae
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...âHarriet Tubman: Armed and Dangerous.â âRevolution Is a Womanâs Work.â âHarriet Tubman: Woman Warrior.â âT_he Heroic Struggle of âGen-eralâ Tubman.â âTubman Mural with Musket Is Rejected.â So read the titles of just a few of the newspaper articles that appeared in 2000 regarding the controversies over the white artist Mike Alewitzâs Move or Die, a large-scale ...
conclusion “portals, containers,time capsules, and bridges” actsand arts of black heroism in textualand visual archives
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Appearing in 2002, Debra Priestlyâs mixed-media series Strange Fruit dramatizes black male and female strategies of psychological, physical, aes-thetic, spiritual, and political resistance. As a thought-provoking series that places the onus upon the viewer to interpret from the fragments, Priestlyâs Strange Fruit series is composed of rows of canning jars into each of which ...
afterword the black bodyas proof: black heroism in thetransatlantic imagination
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Celeste-Marie Bernierâs Characters of Blood: Black Heroism in the Trans- atlantic Imagination grapples with the vexed legacy of race and representa-tion in ingenious, imaginative, and innovative ways. Bernierâs bold interdis-ciplinary study reveals the impossibility of innocent representations of race. It also delineates the many dif_ferent ways that Black artists, activists, and in-...
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...plate 1. Jacob Lawrence, panel 10, âThe cruelty of the planters toward the slaves drove the slaves to revolt,â Toussaint LâOuverture series, 1938. (Courtesy of the Amistad Research Center; Â© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2011)plate 2. Jacob Lawrence, panel 19, âThe Blacks formed into large bands and slaughtered every Mulatto and White they encountered,â Toussaint LâOuverture series, 1938. ...
Page Count: 464
Illustrations: 16 color illus., 30 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012