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Blood at the Root

Lynching as American Cultural Nucleus

Jennie Lightweis-Goff

Publication Year: 2011

Examines the relationship of lynching to black and white citizenship in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. through a focus on historical, visual, cultural, and literary texts. In Blood at the Root, winner of the 2009 SUNY Press Dissertation/First Book Prize in African American Studies, Jennie Lightweis-Goff examines the centrality of lynching to American culture, focusing particularly on the ways in which literature, popular culture, and art have constructed the illusion of secrecy and obsolescence to conceal the memory of violence. Including critical study of writers and artists like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Richard Wright, William Faulkner, George Schuyler, and Kara Walker, Lightweis-Goff also incorporates her personal experience in the form of a year-long travelogue of visits to lynching sites. Her research and travel move outside the American South and rural locales to demonstrate the fiction of confining racism to certain areas of the country and the denial of collective responsibility for racial violence. Lightweis-Goff seeks to implicate societal attitude in the actions of the few and to reveal the legacy of violence that has been obscured by more valiant memories in the public sphere. In exploring the ways that spatial and literary texts replace lynching with proclamations of innocence and regret, Lightweis-Goff argues that racial violence is an incompletely erupted trauma of American life whose very hiddenness links the past to still-present practices of segregation and exclusion.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Blood at the Root

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pp. iii-

Contents

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pp. vii-

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-

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Love, Debt,Collaboration, and Thanks

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pp. xi-xiv

In May 2003, Andy Doolen—then an assistant professor at Clemson University—lent me his copy of Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. At the time, I was writing Reconstructing Hitler’s Body in Cinema, an examination of the relationship between Axis propaganda and the “heroic comedies” of the Allied countries, a study subsequently submitted as a thesis ...

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INTRODUCTION. Self and State: Lynching’s Intimate Violence

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pp. 1-29

When I was six years old, I moved to South Carolina from suburban New Jersey. My father worked as a platinum broker for Engelhard Corporation, which had branches in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Seneca, South Carolina; and various international locations. When offered a transfer, my parents narrowed their options by omitting the coldest locales and the foreign ones. They ...

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1. “America is Mississippi Now”: The Portable South and the Exile of Richard Wright

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pp. 31-58

When I see Southern landscape from an airplane, my eyes follow the winding snake of Atlanta to my mountain home across the state border in Seneca, South Carolina; perhaps I feel more at home with the distance. When I hear that weekend sailors have of late spotted graves and flooded churches through the cerulean waters of manmade upcountry lakes, I swim ...

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2. Beneath the Skin: George Schuyler and the Fantasy of Race

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pp. 59-82

Rendered in vivid color language by a writer who aspired to be post-racial and post-black, Jean Toomer’s “Portrait in Georgia” posits the flame of lynching as the consummating fire of sexual desire. The romantic description of the “white” woman—at once standing across a chasm and in intimate distance from a lyric poem’s exegesis on the beauty of the beloved—suggests that ...

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3. “Peaceful and Unfathomable and Unbearable Eyes”: William Faulkner’s Elisions of Witness

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pp. 83-111

When asked by Morton Goldman in February 1935 to submit a “lynching article” to Vanity Fair, William Faulkner answered aloofly. “Tell them I never saw a lynching,” he wrote, “and so couldn’t describe one” (Blotner 1977, 89). By the time he negated the possibility of participating in public protest against mob violence, Faulkner had already written the short fiction ...

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4. The Lynched Woman: Kara Walker, Laura Nelson, and the Question of Agency

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pp. 113-144

In the coldest months of 2000, sixty black-and-white postcards were displayed in the Roth Horowitz Gallery in New York City. Of the exhibition, organizer Andrew Roth said that he hoped that no crush of visitors strained the capacity of the small gallery, but crowds formed nonetheless—piling into “a [claustrophobic] black room [with] coarse red carpets,” its starkness ...

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CONCLUSION: Vacant Lots: Public Memory and the Practice of Forgetting

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pp. 145-178

The Pickens County Museum—formerly the Pickens County Jail—is constructed from red brick and copper, design features once associated with the bureaucratic and functional. Thirty years since the election of Ronald Reagan and his libertarian ethics of care began the inexorable decline of small-town...

Notes

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pp. 179-187

Bibliography

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pp. 189-205

Index

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pp. 207-217


E-ISBN-13: 9781438436302
E-ISBN-10: 1438436300
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438436296
Print-ISBN-10: 1438436297

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 7 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2011

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