Pauline Hopkins’s serialized magazine novel, Of One Blood; or, the Hidden Self (1902-03), is strongly connected to music. As Lois Brown has explained in her recent literary biography, Pauline Hopkins spent over fifteen years as a performer of classical music and musical theater before she turned to writing. And yet, scholars have not explored the impact of music on Hopkins’s literary œuvre. This paper will illuminate the significant impact of music within Of One Blood with a particular focus on “high-class” music—what late nineteenth-century African Americans referred to as classical music and operatic performances. In particular, Hopkins’s novel seems to revise Giuseppe Verdi’s 1871 opera, Aïda—another creative text inspired by archeological antiquities and the new discipline of Egyptology. In addition to signifying on Verdi’s misrepresentations of Nubia and Ethiopia in his opera, the novel also calls attention to the late nineteenth-century popularity of opera and African American female opera singers. While scholars acknowledge the foundational role played by spirituals, jubilee songs, and minstrel music—styles of music frequently associated with notions of “blackness”—this article will reveal the ways in which African American writers like Hopkins, Du Bois, and Johnson also drew upon classical music and performances—styles of music often associated with “whiteness”—in creating their works. Consequently, this article aims to illuminate the significant role played by classical music and operatic performances within early African American aesthetic traditions.


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pp. 277-290
Launched on MUSE
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