Conjure Women, Root Men, and Normative Visions of Freedom in Antebellum Slave Narratives
- Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 74, Number 2, Summer 2018
- pp. 113-141
- Additional Information
- Purchase/rental options available:
Antebellum slave narrative writers Frederick Douglass, Henry Bibb, and William Grimes largely disavow the gender and sexual queerness that white slaveholding society associated with Africana religions in order to frame themselves, in opposition, as examples of black gender, sexual, and religious propriety. Still, the representations of root men and conjure women found in antebellum slave narratives stand as some of the few examples in 19th-century African American literature of black queerness, via black diasporic religion, being drawn upon as a resource in the work of black liberation, even if this resource is ultimately framed in a condemning fashion. Re-examining these experiences of freedom through a black queer feminist lens prompts a confrontation with the gender, sexual, and religious terms of liberation for antebellum African Americans.