The Dismissal of the “Mulatto”…

The dismissal of the “mulatto” through his emasculation is historically grounded: “so frequently did nineteenth century writers depict octoroons as delicate beauties that the word itself began to conjure up images of passive femininity. Although by definition an octoroon was either a male or a female with one-eighth Black blood, Black men in novels were rarely described as such.” There is, of course, an immense bibliography of work (primary and secondary) concerning the “tragic mulatto” as a typically female protagonist, who is unable to find her place in society because of her biracial heritage. This displacement has sexual implications, explains Cynthia Nakashima: “[b]ecause of the structure of power and domination in the American gender system… weakness and vulnerability can be very exciting and attractive when applied to females.” Although the mulatta narratives are intended to evoke sympathy, they often culled readerly desire instead.

Dunning, Stefanie. “Demystifying the Tragic Mulatta: The Biracial Woman as Spectacle.Stanford Black Arts Quarterly 2.3 (Summer/Spring 1997). 12-14.

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