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From Uncle Tom to Gangsta
This pathbreaking study of region, race, and gender reveals how we underestimate the South's influence on the formation of black masculinity at the national level. Many negative stereotypes of black men—often contradictory ones—have emerged from the ongoing historical traumas initiated by slavery. Are black men emasculated and submissive or hypersexed and violent? Nostalgic representations of black men have arisen as well: think of the philosophical, hardworking sharecropper or the abiding, upright preacher. To complicate matters, says Riché Richardson, blacks themselves appropriate these images for purposes never intended by their (mostly) white progenitors.
Starting with such well-known caricatures as the Uncle Tom and the black rapist, Richardson investigates a range of pathologies of black masculinity that derive ideological force from their associations with the South. Military policy, black-liberation discourse, and contemporary rap, she argues, are just some of the instruments by which egregious pathologies of black masculinity in southern history have been sustained. Richardson's sources are eclectic and provocative, including Ralph Ellison's fiction, Charles Fuller's plays, Spike Lee's films, Huey Newton's and Malcolm X's political rhetoric, the O. J. Simpson discourse, and the music production of Master P, the Cash Money Millionaires, and other Dirty South rappers.
Filled with new insights into the region's role in producing hierarchies of race and gender in and beyond their African American contexts, this new study points the way toward more epistemological frameworks for southern literature, southern studies, and gender studies.
African American Ecoliterary Traditions
Farmers Markets, Race, and the Green Economy
Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and Transatlantic Activism
During the early 1890s, a series of shocking lynchings brought unprecedented international attention to American mob violence. This interest created an opportunity for Ida B. Wells, an African American journalist and civil rights activist from Memphis, to travel to England to cultivate British moral indignation against American lynching. Wells adapted race and gender roles established by African American abolitionists in Britain to legitimate her activism as a “black lady reformer”—a role American society denied her—and assert her right to defend her race from abroad. Based on extensive archival research conducted in the United States and Britain, Black Woman Reformer by Sarah Silkey explores Wells’s 1893–94 antilynching campaigns within the broader contexts of nineteenth-century transatlantic reform networks and debates about the role of extralegal violence in American society.
Through her speaking engagements, newspaper interviews, and the efforts of her British allies, Wells altered the framework of public debates on lynching in both Britain and the United States. No longer content to view lynching as a benign form of frontier justice, Britons accepted Wells’s assertion that lynching was a racially motivated act of brutality designed to enforce white supremacy. As British criticism of lynching mounted, southern political leaders desperate to maintain positive relations with potential foreign investors were forced to choose whether to publicly defend or decry lynching. Although British moral pressure and media attention did not end lynching, the international scrutiny generated by Wells’s campaigns transformed our understanding of racial violence and made American communities increasingly reluctant to embrace lynching.
Class and Governance in the Luxury City
Free People of Color in Pre-Revolutionary Saint Domingue
Stewart R. King identifies two distinctive groups that shared Saint Domingue's free black upper stratum, one consisting of planters and merchants and the other of members of the army and police forces. With the aid of individual and family case studies, King documents how the two groups used different strategies to pursue the common goal of economic and social advancement. Among other aspects, King looks at the rural or urban bases of these groups' networks, their relationships with whites and free blacks of lesser means, and their attitudes toward the acquisition, use, and sale of land, slaves, and other property.
King's main source is the notarial archives of Saint Domingue, whose holdings offer an especially rich glimpse of free black elite life. Because elites were keenly aware of how a bureaucratic paper trail could help cement their status, the archives divulge a wealth of details on personal and public matters.
Blue Coat or Powdered Wig is a vivid portrayal of race relations far from the European centers of colonial power, where the interactions of free blacks and whites were governed as much by practicalities and shared concerns as by the law.
The Civil War Letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw
In this book Shaw speaks for himself with equal eloquence through nearly two hundred letters he wrote to his family and friends during the Civil War. The portrait that emerges is of a man more divided and complex--though no less heroic--than the Shaw depicted in the celebrated film Glory. The pampered son of wealthy Boston abolitionists, Shaw was no abolitionist himself, but he was among the first patriots to respond to Lincoln's call for troops after the attack on Fort Sumter. After Cedar Mountain and Antietam, Shaw knew the carnage of war firsthand. Describing nightfall on the Antietam battlefield, he wrote, "the crickets chirped, and the frogs croaked, just as if nothing unusual had happened all day long, and presently the stars came out bright, and we lay down among the dead, and slept soundly until daylight. There were twenty dead bodies within a rod of me."
When Federal war aims shifted from an emphasis on restoring the Union to the higher goal of emancipation for four million slaves, Shaw's mother pressured her son into accepting the command of the North's vanguard black regiment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts. A paternalist who never fully reconciled his own prejudices about black inferiority, Shaw assumed the command with great reluctance. Yet, as he trained his recruits in Readville, Massachusetts, during the early months of 1963, he came to respect their pluck and dedication. "There is not the least doubt," he wrote his mother, "that we shall leave the state, with as good a regiment, as any that has marched."
Despite such expressions of confidence, Shaw in fact continued to worry about how well his troops would perform under fire. The ultimate test came in South Carolina in July 1863, when the Fifty-fourth led a brave but ill-fated charge on Fort Wagner, at the approach to Charleston Harbor. As Shaw waved his sword and urged his men forward, an enemy bullet felled him on the fort's parapet. A few hours later the Confederates dumped his body into a mass grave with the bodies of twenty of his men. Although the assault was a failure from a military standpoint, it proved the proposition to which Shaw had reluctantly dedicated himself when he took command of the Fifty-fourth: that black soldiers could indeed be fighting men. By year's end, sixty new black regiments were being organized.
A previous selection of Shaw's correspondence was privately published by his family in 1864. For this volume, Russell Duncan has restored many passages omitted from the earlier edition and has provided detailed explanatory notes to the letters. In addition he has written a lengthy biographical essay that places the young colonel and his regiment in historical context.
Toward an Environmental History of the Civil War
The Blue, the Gray, and the Green is one of only a handful of books to apply an environmental history approach to the Civil War. This book explores how nature—disease, climate, flora and fauna, and other factors—affected the war and also how the war shaped Americans’ perceptions, understanding, and use of nature. The contributors use a wide range of approaches that serve as a valuable template for future environmental histories of the conflict. In his introduction, Brian Allen Drake describes the sparse body of environmental history literature related to the Civil War and lays out a blueprint for the theoretical basis of each essay. Kenneth W. Noe emphasizes climate and its effects on agricultural output and the battlefield; Timothy Silver explores the role of disease among troops and animals; Megan Kate Nelson examines aridity and Union defeat in 1861 New Mexico; Kathryn Shively Meier investigates soldiers’ responses to disease in the Peninsula Campaign; Aaron Sachs, John C. Inscoe, and Lisa M. Brady examine philosophical and ideological perspectives on nature before, during, and after the war; Drew Swanson discusses the war’s role in production and landscape change in piedmont tobacco country; Mart A. Stewart muses on the importance of environmental knowledge and experience for soldiers, civilians, and slaves; Timothy Johnson elucidates the ecological underpinnings of debt peonage during Reconstruction; finally, Paul S. Sutter speculates on the future of Civil War environmental studies. The Blue, the Gray, and the Green provides a provocative environmental commentary that enriches our understanding of the Civil War.
The Influence and Reinvention of Edgar Allan Poe in Spanish America
Edgar Allan Poe?s image and import shifted during the twentieth century, and this shift is clearly connected to the work of three writers from the R?o de la Plata region of South America·Uruguayan Horacio Quiroga and Argentines Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cort?zar. In Borges?s Poe, Emron Esplin focuses on the second author in this trio and argues that Borges, through a sustained and complex literary relationship with Poe?s works, served as the primary catalyst that changed Poe?s image throughout Spanish America from a poet-prophet to a timeless fiction writer.
Most scholarship that couples Poe and Borges focuses primarily on each writer?s detective stories, refers only occasionally to their critical writings and the remainder of their fiction, and deemphasizes the cultural context in which Borges interprets Poe. In this book, Esplin explores Borges?s and Poe?s published works and several previously untapped archival resources to reveal an even more complex literary relationship between the two writers. Emphasizing the spatial and temporal context in which Borges interprets Poe·the R?o de la Plata region from the 1920s through the 1980s·Borges?s Poe underlines Poe?s continual presence in Borges?s literary corpus. More important, it demonstrates how Borges?s literary criticism, his Poe translations, and his own fiction create a disparate Poe who serves as a precursor to Borges?s own detective and fantastic stories and as an inspiration to the so-called Latin American Boom.
Seen through this more expansive context, Borges?s Poe shows that literary influence runs both ways since Poe?s writings visibly affect Borges the poet, story writer, essayist, and thinker while Borges?s analyses and translations of Poe?s work and his responses to Poe?s texts in his own fiction forever change how readers of Poe return to his literary corpus.