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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In Race Matters (1993), Cornel West argues that black leadership has entered a state of crisis because post−civil rights era black leaders do not possess “a collective and critical consciousness” for improving the plight of the black masses.1 While romanticizing the commitment of pre−civil rights and civil rights era leaders to black communal enfranchisement, ...
1 / “Is He the One?”: Civil Rights Activismand Leadership in Ernest Gaines’sThe Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
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The publication of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971) defined Ernest Gaines’s position as a national and international literary historian,1 for the text makes a self-conscious effort to record African American women’s and men’s leadership in civil rights struggles from Emancipation to the middle of the civil rights movement. Like other fiction ...
2 / “The Refusal of Christ to Accept Crucifixion”: Bridge Leadership in Alice Walker’s Meridian
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Claims that the civil rights movement began to decline in 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and ended in 1968, with the death of Dr. King, declare a decisive break in history marked by the end of that movement, the rise of the Black Power movement, and the onset of a post–civil rights era.1 Even more problematically, they bind the ...
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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Gayl Jones’s first 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 leadership and conceptualize civil rights as separate from black women’s gender and sexual rights. Whereas...
4 / “We All Killed Him”: The Limits of Formal Leadership and Civil Rights Legislationin Charles Johnson’s Dreamer
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Published at the end of the twentieth century, Charles Johnson’s Dreamer (1998) engaged debates about civil rights, black leadership, and black politics that had persisted throughout the twentieth century. In 1903, for example, W. E. B. DuBois famously prophesied that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line,—the relation ...
Epilogue: Is There Life after Exodus Politics?
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When Oprah Winfrey decided to endorse Barack Obama’s presidential bid, she carved out a new space for herself in American electoral politics. Although Winfrey previously had not endorsed any presidential candidate, her use of messianic typology demonstrated her familiarity with...
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Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2013