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Fathers, Preachers, Rebels, Men

Black Masculinity in U.S. History and Literature, 1820-1945

Edited by Timothy R. Buckner and Peter Caster

Publication Year: 2011

Fathers, Preachers, Rebels, Men: Black Masculinity in U.S. History and Literature, 1820–1945,edited by Timothy R. Buckner and Peter Caster, brings together scholars of history and literature focused on the lives and writing of black men during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in the United States. The interdisciplinary study demonstrates the masculine character of cultural practices developed from slavery through segregation. Black masculinity embodies a set of contradictions, including an often mistaken threat of violence, the belief in its legitimacy, and the rhetorical union of truth and fiction surrounding slavery, segregation, resistance, and self-determination. The attention to history and literature is necessary because so many historical depictions of black men are rooted in fiction. The essays of this collection balance historical and literary accounts, and they join new descriptions of familiar figures such as Charles W. Chesnutt and W. E. B. Du Bois with the less familiar but critically important William Johnson and Nat Love. The 2008 election of Barack Obama is a tremendously significant event in the vexed matter of race in the United States. However, the racial subtext of recent radical political movements and the 2009 arrest of scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr., demonstrate that the perceived threat posed by black masculinity to the nation’s unity and vitality remains an alarming one in the cultural imagination.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Black Performance and Cultural Criticism


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-6


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This book has benefited from the help and encouragement of many institutions and individuals. We would like to thank our colleagues at Troy University’s Department of History and the University of South Carolina Upstate’s English Department for their collegiality and suggestions in the development of this project. ...

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pp. 1-22

On August 19, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln met with Indian Affairs Commissioner William Dole, Wisconsin judge Joseph T. Mills, and Postmaster General Alexander Randall to discuss the upcoming presidential election and the need for a Republican victory to ensure sustained emancipation. ...

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1. “He was no man attall”? Slave Men, Honor, Violence, and Masculinity in the Antebellum South

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pp. 23-40

In antebellum Anderson District, South Carolina, Warren—a slave of Peter K. Norris—repeatedly threatened to kill Charles Barrett’s bondman Dan. Although Warren and his wife had been “apart 12 months,” he “accused Dan of being after” her and believed them altogether “too thick.” ...

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2. A Crucible of Masculinity: William Johnson’s Barbershop and the Making of Free Black Men in the Antebellum South

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pp. 41-59

In November 1836, William Johnson recorded a strange account of a fight that took place over a discussion of a duel: “[L]ast night [ . . . ] several gentlemen were in a conversation about a duel that was fought in South Carolina. When Mr. Charles Stewart stated that those gentlemen that fought actually fought with bullets, ...

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3. To Train Them for the Work: Manhood, Morality, and Free Black Conduct Discourse in Antebellum New York

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pp. 60-79

In Samuel Ringgold Ward’s 1855 narrative, Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro, the renowned public speaker and outspoken abolitionist activist interrupted the story of his family’s escape from slavery in Maryland and his upbringing in New York to make an important point about how free Northern blacks could incorporate the fight against slavery ...

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4. Masculinizing the Pulpit: The Black Preacher in the Nineteenth-Century AME Church

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pp. 80-101

On March 13, 1869, in the latest installment of a series on “Pioneers of the AME Church” in the Christian Recorder, the official denominational newspaper, Henry Highland Garnet highlighted the achievements of the Rev. William Paul Quinn, Third Bishop. Garnet described one religious meeting on the Western frontier ...

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5. “Shall I Trust These Men?” Thomas Nast and Postbellum Black Manhood

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pp. 102-127

In a pair of illustrations printed August 5, 1865, Thomas Nast presented Harper’s Weekly readers with two starkly contrasting models of masculinity: on the left, the “rebel chiefs” of the Confederacy knelt before “Columbia”; on the right, a black veteran stood proudly on his one remaining leg, his uniform in order and his gaze steady. ...

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6. Charles W. Chesnutt, Harper’s Weekly, and Racial Caricature in Postbellum, Pre-Harlem America

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pp. 128-159

The above epigraph, a provocative passage from Charles W. Chesnutt’s novel The Marrow of Tradition (1901), sardonically lances the popular expectation of the “burly black brute” even as it demonstrates how racist visions appear in the “large black type” of print journalism, ...

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7. “So I Decided to Quit It and Try Something Else for a While” Reading Agency in Nat Love

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pp. 160-183

When scholars discuss literary and cultural representations of black masculinity they often turn to the usual suspects. In regard to literature, the great triumvirate, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin are called upon as representatives, with the occasional inclusion of Chester Himes. ...

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8. Cowboys, Porters, and the Mythic West: Satire and Frontier Masculinity in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love

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pp. 184-202

The grand mythology of the American West drew and repelled the imagination and efforts of African Americans in the post-emancipation, pre–Harlem Renaissance era. With its promises for land and home ownership, making a “fresh start,” and escaping strident and oppressive social conventions, ...

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9. From Haiti to Harpers Ferry: The Insurrectionary Tradition in American Literature

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pp. 203-219

The opening lines of W. E. B. Du Bois’s 1909 biography John Brown make a remarkable argument for America’s potential to be cosmopolitan—to achieve an intellectual stance of openness to the world, to Africa in particular. These lines are even more remarkable because they reverse the trajectory of “civilizing” influence that the Progressive Party ...

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10. The Political Is Personal: Black Family Manhood and the Social Science of E. Franklin Frazier, 1930–1945

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pp. 220-245

The history of the family is frequently read as the history of women, mothers, and children. Writing against the ideology of separate spheres and moving toward the reality of women’s presence and prominence in the public sphere has, in the course of two generations, fundamentally contested narratives privileging the domestication of women. ...

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Postscript: Black Masculinity and New Precedents

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pp. 246-254

The notion of national manhood that consolidated in the late eighteenth century as the republic itself emerged prioritized elite white men in its definition and coalesced against the ideological backdrop of an Enlightenment philosophical discourse that defined black people as inferior and incapable of rationality. ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 255-264


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pp. 265-266


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pp. 267-272

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270769
E-ISBN-10: 081427076X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211564
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211569

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 18 halftones
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Black Performance and Cultural Criticism