Civil Rights and Leadership in African American Literature and Culture
Publication Year: 2013
Using the term "exodus politics" to theorize the valorization of black male leadership in the movement for civil rights, Robert J. Patterson explores the ways in which the political strategies and ideologies of this movement paradoxically undermined the collective enfranchisement of black people. He argues that by narrowly conceptualizing civil rights in only racial terms and relying solely on a male figure, conventional African American leadership, though frequently redemptive, can also erode the very goals of civil rights.
The author turns to contemporary African American writers such as Ernest Gaines, Gayl Jones, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson to show how they challenge the dominant models of civil rights leadership.
He draws on a variety of disciplines—including black feminism, civil rights history, cultural studies, and liberation theology—in order to develop a more nuanced formulation of black subjectivity and politics.
Patterson's connection of the concept of racial rights to gender and sexual rights allows him to illuminate the literature's promotion of more expansive models. By considering the competing and varied political interests of black communities, these writers reimagine the dominant models in a way that can empower communities to be self-sustaining in the absence of a messianic male leader.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Exodus Politics came to fruition not simply as a result of my research, thinking, and writing. Thankfully, I also had friends and colleagues who provided intellectual spaces in which my ideas could grow. Equally important, I had friends and family who provided the emotional support necessary for me to succeed in this endeavor. And last but certainly not ...
Introduction: Civil Rights, Leadership,and Exodus Politics
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Without such [local] activists there can be no progressive politics. Yet state, regional, and national networks are also required for an effective progressive politics. That is why locally based collective (and especially multigendered) models of black leadership are needed. These models must shun the idea of one black national leader; they also should put a ...
1 / “Is He the One?”: Civil Rights Activismand Leadership in Ernest Gaines’sThe Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
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The lesson she had learned from her sixty years a slave and ten years free: that there was no bad luck in the world but white people. “They don’t know when to stop,” she said, and returned to her bed, pulled up the quilt The publication of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) def_ined Ernest Gaines’s position as a national and international literary ...
2 / “The Refusal of Christ to Accept Crucifixion”: Bridge Leadership in Alice Walker’s Meridian
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...“Now, before we proceed,” Velma said, “we need to be clear, all of us, about the nature of the work. About how things have gotten done in the past and “Don’t be so damn polite,” Ruby interrupted. “It boils down to this. You jokers, and especially you,” cutting her eyes at Lonnie, “never want to take any responsibility for getting down. Mr. Reilly excepted. Now, what that ...
3 / “The Important Thing Is Making Generations”: Reproduction and Blues Performance as Forms of Civil Rights Leadership in Gayl Jones’s Corregidora
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People pay for what they do, and, still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply: by the lives they Gayl Jones’s f_irst novel Corregidora (1975), like Gaines’s Miss Pittman and Walker’s Meridian, provides a fruitful discursive space to call into question the tendency of exodus politics to idealize black male formal ...
4 / “We All Killed Him”: The Limits of Formal Leadership and Civil Rights Legislationin Charles Johnson’s Dreamer
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We are coming to demand that the government address itself to the problem of poverty. We read one day, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” But if a man does not have a job or ...
Epilogue: Is There Life after Exodus Politics?
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What had once been so easily defined as the ongoing black-against-white conflict has metastasized into a polychromatic, polyglot, polyethnic stew of a war. And within the black community, what once had been romanticized as a monolithic voice from a mountaintop, a series of moral Elijahs and Moseses and Apostle Pauls condemning their pharaohs and Pilates, has ...
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013