Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

Posted in Articles, Arts, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2014-11-23 17:08Z by Steven

Old Times There Are Not Forgotten

The New York Times

Ben Brantley, Chief Theater Critic

‘An Octoroon,’ a Slave-Era Tale at Soho Rep

Some people are paralyzed by self-consciousness. The playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is inspired, energized and perhaps even set free by it.

You could say that he transforms self-consciousness into art, except then you have to ask what art is, as Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins surely would. How about into entertainment, then? No, that sounds too unequivocally pleasurable and guilt free. Well, let’s just say that Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins turns self-consciousness into theater, and that this is a lot more stimulating than it sounds.

Some degree of self-consciousness is inevitable for any latter-day dramatist taking on Dion Boucicault’sThe Octoroon,” which is what Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins is doing in the exhilarating, booby-trapped production called “An Octoroon” (those articles make a difference!) that opened at Soho Rep on Sunday night. Though a huge hit in this country in the mid-19th century, “The Octoroon” would appear approachable on today’s stages only with a set of very long, sterilized tongs.

It is, first of all, an unabashed melodrama, with all the handkerchief wringing and mustache twirling that term implies. The story it relates is an incident-crammed weepy of forbidden love in the slaveholding South, where social status is measured in drops of blood. (Octoroon refers to someone who is one-eighth black.)…

…The basic plot of this “Octoroon” is Boucicault’s, more or less. Its title character is the beauteous Zoe (Amber Gray of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”), the daughter of a slave and a recently deceased plantation owner. Zoe is beloved both by the plantation’s worldly and gentlemanly new owner, George (Mr. Myers), and by its former overseer, the evil M’Closkey (Mr. Myers again), who wants to buy the place for himself.

That’s Plot A (or most of it; I didn’t mention the local rich girl, played in high burlesque style by Zoë Winters, loves George, too). There’s a Plot B, but I won’t go into detail about that one, except to say that it involves a lovable rapscallion of a slave boy (Ben Horner, in blackface) and his pal, an American Indian, I mean Native American or … heck, I’m all tongue-tied now. Anyway, he’s played by Mr. Wolohan, in redface.

Oh, relax. It’s only a play, isn’t it? Except one of Mr. Jacobs-Jenkins’s points is that nothing that deals with race in this racially conflicted country can ever be reduced to an easy showbiz formula, whether satirical or uplifting. His “Octoroon” invites us to laugh loudly and easily at how naïve the old stereotypes now seem, until suddenly nothing seems funny at all…

Read the entire review here.

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The Octoroon: A Tragic Mulatto Enslaved by 1 Drop

Posted in Arts, Europe, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery on 2014-09-19 21:25Z by Steven

The Octoroon: A Tragic Mulatto Enslaved by 1 Drop

The Root

Image of the Week: A sculpture addresses the ramifications for those who were mixed-race.

John Bell, The Octoroon, 1868. Marble, 159.6 cm high. Town Hall, Blackburn, U.K.

This image is part of a weekly series that The Root is presenting in conjunction with the Image of the Black Archive & Library at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

Though it would hardly seem likely at first glance, this pallid image of slavery directly addresses the condition of black bondage. To all appearances, the young woman seen here represents a white captive. Except for her chains, she could pass for a conventional likeness of Venus, the classical goddess of love. As indicated by the inscription on the base of the statue, she is instead an octoroon—that is, an exceptionally light-skinned person of mixed race, technically defined as one-eighth black and the rest white.

The condition was reached by gradual degrees of miscegenation, or racial mixing, until the complexion of an individual often became indistinguishable from a person of “pure” white ancestry. In race-conscious societies, the prospect of racial mixture could threaten the precarious stability of the dominant order. The position of the octoroon along the edge of this fragile divide afforded some degree of maneuverability, often termed “passing.” Before the abolition of slavery, however, such light-skinned mulattoes faced the even more likely prospect of a life in bondage…

This demure, pensive vision of miscegenation and its dire consequences was made by the popular British sculptor John Bell. Through artfully constructed layers of sentimentality and aesthetic contrivance emerges one of the primary justifications for the enslavement of a whole group of human beings: the notion of one drop of black blood, the “drop sinister,” by which a light-skinned person could be consigned to a life of bondage…

Read the entire article here.

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The Octoroon

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2014-08-06 18:08Z by Steven

The Octoroon

Broadview Press
2014-05-16 (orignially published in 1859)
136 pages
Paperback / PDF / ePub
ISBN: 9781554812110 / 1554812119

Dion Boucicault

Edited by:

Sarika Bose, Lecturer of English
University of British Columbia

Joseph Black, Professor of English
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

et al.

Regarded by Bernard Shaw as a master of the theatre, Dion Boucicault was arguably the most important figure in drama in North America and in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was largely forgotten during the twentieth century—though he continued to influence popular culture (the iconic image of a woman tied to railway tracks as a train rushes towards her, for example, originates in a Boucicault melodrama). In the twenty-first century the gripping nature of his plays is being discovered afresh; when The Octoroon was produced as a BBC Radio play in 2012, director and playwright Mark Ravenhill described Boucicault’s dramas as “the precursors to Hollywood cinema.”

In The Octoroon—the most controversial play of his career—Boucicault addresses the sensitive topic of race and slavery. George Peyton inherits a plantation, and falls in love with an octoroon—a person one-eighth African American, and thus, in 1859 Louisiana, legally a slave. The Octoroon opened in 1859 in New York City, just two years prior to the American Civil War, and created a sensation—as it did in its subsequent British production.

This new edition includes a wide range of background contextual materials, an informative introduction, and extensive annotation.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • A Note on the Text
  • The Octoroon; or, Life in Louisiana
  • Appendix A: American Reviews
    • 1. “‘The Octoroon.’ A Disgrace to the North, a Libel on the South,” Spirit of the Times; A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (17 December 1859)
    • 2. From “The Octoroon,” The Charleston Courier, Tri-Weekly (22 December 1859)
    • 3. From “Winter Garden–First Night of ‘The Octoroon,'” The New York Herald (7 December 1859)
  • Appendix B: English Reviews
    • 1. “Saving the Octoroon,” Punch (21 December 1861)
    • 2. From “Theatres and Music,” John Bull (Saturday, 23 November 1861)
    • 3. From “Adelphi” (Review of The Octoroon), The Athenaeum (23 November 1861)
    • 4. “Pan at the Play,” Fun (Saturday, 30 November 1861)
    • 5. “Adelphi Theatre” (Review of Revised Play), The Times [London] (12 December 1861)
  • Appendix C: Letters to Editors Concerning the Lawsuit
    • 1. “The Octoroon Conflict: Financial and Political View of the Case–Letter from Mrs. Agnes Robertson Boucicault,” The New York Herald (Friday, 16 December 1859)
  • Appendix D: A Selection of Letters from Boucicault Defending the Content of The Octoroon
    • 1. “Letter from the Author of the ‘Octoroon,'” The New York Herald (7 December 1859)
    • 2. “The Octoroon Gone Home,” New York Times (9 February 1860)
    • 3. “‘The Octoroon’: To the Editor of the Times,” The Times [London] (Wednesday, 20 November 1861)
  • Appendix E: Boucicault on Acting
    • 1. From Dion Boucicault, “The Art of Acting” (1882)
  • Appendix F: Alternative Endings
    • 1. The Illustrated London News (14 December 1882)
    • 2. “Music and the Drama,” Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (Sunday, 15 December 1861)
    • 3. From The Octoroon: Founded on Dion Boucicault’s Celebrated and Original Melodrama (1897)
    • 4. From Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon, Lacy’s Acting Edition, No. 963 (c. 1861)
    • 5. From Dion Boucicault, The Octoroon: A Drama in Three Acts (26 October 1861)
  • Appendix G: On Slavery
    • 1. From Dion Boucicault, unpublished note, Theatre Museum, London (1861)
    • 2. From Fredrika Bremer, “Fredrika Bremer Sees the New Orleans Slave Market” (1853)
    • 3. From Civil Code of the State of Louisiana
  • Appendix H: Illustrations
    • 1. From The Illustrated London News (30 November 1861)
    • 2. Cover, Reynolds Miscellany (4 January 1862)
    • 3. Cover, The Octoroon (Dick’s Standard Plays)
  • Permissions Acknowledgments
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“The Ineffaceable Curse of Cain”: Race, Miscegenation, and the Victorian Staging of Irishness

Posted in Articles, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2012-10-09 21:38Z by Steven

“The Ineffaceable Curse of Cain”: Race, Miscegenation, and the Victorian Staging of Irishness

Victorian Literature and Culture
Volume 29, Number 2 (September 2001)
pages 383–396

Scott Boltwood, Associate Professor of English
Emory & Henry College, Emory, Virginia

THROUGHOUT THE NINETEENTH CENTURY both the English popular and scientific communities increasingly argued for a distinct racial difference between the Irish Celt and the English Saxon, which conceptually undermined the Victorian attempt to form a single kingdom from the two peoples. The ethnological discourse concerning Irish identity was dominated by English theorists who reflect their empire’s ideological necessity; thus, the Celt and Saxon were often described as racial siblings early in the nineteenth century when union seemed possible, while later descriptions of the Irish as members of a distant or degenerate race reflect the erosion of public sympathy caused by the era of violence following the failed revolt of 1848. Amid this deluge of scientific discourse, the Irish were treated as mute objects of analysis, lacking any opportunity for formal rejoinder; nonetheless, these essentially English discussions of racial identity and Irishness also entered into the Irish popular culture.

This paper will examine the dynamic resonance of English ethnography within Irish culture by using Victorian theories of Celtic racial character to inform a reading of a seminal dramatic portrayal of the Irish. The focus of my analysis will be the romantic melodrama The Colleen Bawn, written by the Irish dramatist Dion Boucicault in 1860. This work is the first of Boucicault’s several “Irish” melodramas: plays that celebrated Irish identity, enjoyed the fanatical devotion of Irish audiences well into the next century, and inspired a school of Boucicauldian nationalists at Belfast’s Queen’s Theatre at the turn of the century. Ultimately, though, the artistic impetus for The Colleen Bawn underscores Boucicault’s deep ambivalence over his homeland. Early in 1860, he began working on The Colleen Bawn following his completion of The Octoroon, a play in which he performed each night throughout the period of the Irish play’s composition and rehearsal. Both plays focus on a young landowner who is torn between his love for a poor, local beauty and his financial necessity to marry his wealthy neighbor. Moreover, in both plays the heroes inherit estates teetering on the brink of financial ruin, both intended brides are faithful and wealthy cousins, and both heroines are celebrated for their innocence and purity. Tellingly though, the first heroine is the mulatto freed-slave Zoe, while the second is the Irish peasant Eily O’Connor.

Although avowedly not intended to be an “Irish Octoroon,” The Colleen Bawn anticipates the racial conflation of Irish and African that the English ethnological imagination scientifically argued for beginning in the 1880s. Indeed, the creative genesis of this Irish romance in a melodrama of slavery and miscegenation aptly reveals the status of the Irish within the United Kingdom in spite of the promised equality supposedly conferred on the Irish by the Act of Union in 1800. Whereas the modern reader may argue that the play’s tension arises from the social, religious, and economic disparities between Hardress Cregan and Eily O’Connor, the widespread popularity of Victorian theories of racial identity would have predisposed the play’s audience to recognize the racial difference between Hardress and Eily as the fundamental impediment to their happiness…

Read the entire article here.

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“May she read liberty in your eyes?” Beecher, Boucicault and the Representation and Display of Antebellum Women’s Racially Indeterminate Bodies

Posted in Articles, Religion, Slavery, United States, Women on 2012-07-17 04:39Z by Steven

“May she read liberty in your eyes?” Beecher, Boucicault and the Representation and Display of Antebellum Women’s Racially Indeterminate Bodies

Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism
Volume 26, Number 2, Spring 2012
pages. 127-144
DOI: 10.1353/dtc.2012.0007

Lisa Merrill, Professor of Speech Communication, Rhetoric, Performance Studies
Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York


In 1856 Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, an avid abolitionist, first used the pulpit of his Brooklyn church as the site from which he staged mock slave auctions of young biracial enslaved girls. Beecher enacted several such performances in the lead-up to the Civil War. Appealing to his congregation at Plymouth Church (the basement of which functioned as the “Grand Central Depot” of the Underground Railroad), Beecher banked on his congregation’s empathy, and enacted what his wife later described as “an object lesson in Southern slavery . . . so that everybody could see what slave-dealing really meant, and might be stirred to help pay for the liberation of the victims of a system that was sanctioned by American law, but condemned by the law of God.”

At the same time that Beecher staged his “mock slave auctions” of actual enslaved girls, however, images of enslaved and fugitive African Americans occupied different places in the social imaginary of mid-nineteenth-century Americans and Britons. Audiences encountered representations of the plight of enslaved Black Americans in the contexts of the popular theatre (where they were portrayed by white actors), or the abolition platform where fugitive and free African Americans shared narratives of their escape. While crafting their appeals explicitly to provoke the emotional response of their audiences, abolitionists like Beecher often expressed ambivalent relationships to theatricality and those tools of performance deemed appropriate to the stage venues, rather than speakers’ platforms.

In the first section of this essay I examine Beecher’s staging of “mock auctions,” his use of his church for their setting, his embodiment of the role of the minister as both liberator and “salesman” (of faith, of redemption, of human beings), and the problematics of framing appeals to audience empathy through the performative display of enslaved young women, despite Beecher’s avowed abolitionist intentions. In the second section I explore a conflict that I have discovered was played out in the New York press between the fervidly antitheatre Beecher and playwright Dion Boucicault—a conflict in which sympathy for actors and slaves vied for advocacy and in which the feelings aroused in the actual and conceptual spaces of the pulpit and the stage were laid bare for scrutiny. In the third section I examine Boucicault’s play The Octoroon and disparate responses to this play and to its racially-indeterminate enslaved heroine by theatre audiences.

Henry Ward Beecher: Staging and Seeing Mock Slave Auctions

In an article published in 1896, nine years after Beecher’s death, Beecher’s widow Eunice recounted the first mock slave auction her husband staged in Plymouth Church. As Eunice Beecher recalled, “on Sunday morning of June 1, 1856 . . . at eight o’clock people began gathering by the hundreds in front of the church . . . every available foot of space was occupied, and thousands were outside, unable to gain admission.” At the conclusion of the sermon, Beecher announced to his congregation that two weeks earlier he learned “that a young woman had been sold by her father to be sent South—for what purpose you can imagine when you see her.” As Beecher enjoined his audience to contemplate the horrors to which “Sarah” would be subject, he informed them that the slave trader who bought Sarah for twelve hundred dollars “has offered you the opportunity of purchasing her freedom.”

At this point, Beecher invited Sarah up to the pulpit, “so that all may see you.” Thus, the largely white, pro-abolitionist congregation was presented with the opportunity to observe for themselves the actual body and plight of a young enslaved girl whose fate they might have a personal hand in alleviating. Yet, as I will explore further, Beecher’s invitation to his congregation that they “see” Sarah for themselves, as well as “bid” on her, illustrated what Saidiya Hartman has described as “the precariousness of empathy and the uncertain line between the…

Read or purchase the article here.

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The Octoroon

Posted in Arts, Live Events, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-02-29 05:01Z by Steven

The Octoroon

The Georgetown Theatre Company
North, South, Race & Class: A Staged Reading Series of 19th century Plays at Grace Church
1041 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 2012-02-29, 19:30 EST (Local Time)

The Octoroon (by Dion Boucicault) was one of the biggest hits of mid-19th century American theatre. It is the story of a beautiful mixed-race girl raised as white; when her father dies in debt, she is sold as property. Like the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Octoroon sensationalized the peril of a young slave woman at the hands of an evil white man. The play also serves as an apology for aristocratic slave-owners by presenting them as kindly and broad-minded, while the lower-class white characters were depicted as vicious, lecherous immigrants. These stereotypes persisted is Southern literature until well into the 20th century.

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Boucicault’s misdirections: Race, transatlantic theatre and social position in The Octoroon

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-12-17 21:28Z by Steven

Boucicault’s misdirections: Race, transatlantic theatre and social position in The Octoroon

Atlantic Studies
Volume 6, Number 1 (April 2009)
pages 81-95
DOI: 10.1080/14788810802696287

Sarah Meer, Lecturer of English
Univeristy of Cambridge

This article challenges a number of myths the Irish-American melodramatist Dion Boucicault himself created about his play The Octoroon. Boucicault claimed that London theatre audiences were dissatisfied with the ending, in which the heroine commits suicide, because they had become unsympathetic to American slaves. He rewrote the play for these audiences, and the two versions of The Octoroon have subsequently been used to suggest differences of attitude between New York and London, a shift in British racial politics in the early 1860s, and an antislavery position in Boucicault himself. This article questions all of these interpretations using contemporary reviews, Boucicault’s advertisements and self-promoting articles, and much hitherto undiscussed material: a Boucicault letter, his evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee, and the source of Boucicault’s play, Mayne Reid’s novel The Quadroon. Boucicault was a showman and self-promoter, and his assertions ignored the political uproar the play had caused in New York, and deliberately misinterpreted his audiences in London. The article demonstrates that British audiences were in many cases more sympathetic to American slaves than Boucicault himself, that they objected to the play on aesthetic rather than political grounds, and that Boucicault changed the ending for commercial reasons. It also reveals what the rewriting controversy has obscured: Boucicault’s close attention in the play to the subtleties of the plantation social hierarchy. His concern with social differences and distinctions ties The Octoroon more closely to his Irish plays than has been recognized and illuminates contradictory impulses in The Octoroon, which also help to explain the two endings. While the ‘tragic ending’ reinforces the racial determinism that many critics have observed in the play, the scenes where an outside observer fails to comprehend the racial and social hierarchy on the plantation reinforce an alternative vision that helps justify the ‘happy ending’ versions. Both Boucicault and his play were more interestingly equivocal than the Octoroon myths have allowed.

Dion Boucicault’s 1859 play The Octoroon has figured frequently in recent analyses of representations of race, slavery and the transatlantic in the nineteenth century. Joseph Roach’s influential study of what he called the ‘‘circum-Atlantic’’ made The Octoroon a touchstone of its argument about theatrical and ritual performance in ‘‘the circulation of cultures, material and symbolic’’, around and across the Atlantic. Jennifer DeVere Brody also drew on the play in her study of the ‘‘mulatta’’ in nineteenth-century British/Black Atlantic culture, and Werner Sollors identifies in it many of the central characteristics he discusses in his study of “interracial” literature. Daphne Brooks examines it as a transatlantic ‘‘spectacle of race.’’ The play’s attraction for critics interested in cultural contact, hybridity and creolisation is obvious. As Roach remarks, it was written ‘‘after a brief period of residence in New Orleans by an Anglo-Irishman of French ancestry’’ (183). It is also concerned with the socially impossible position of the daughter of a planter and a slave, a woman deemed to have seven-eighths white ancestry, and one-eighth black

…This article examines Boucicault’s 1866 testimony to a Parliamentary Select Committee, an 1855 letter indicating his views on slavery, and New York and London reviews, advertisements and play scripts. Together they reveal a number of contradictions in the impression Boucicault created of the Octoroon incident, as does Boucicault’s source for the play, Mayne Reid’s 1856 novel The Quadroon. The significant changes Boucicault made in adapting the novel provide a fascinating index to Boucicault’s attitudes on race, interracial marriage and the nature of plantation society in the Southern United States. Boucicault’s focus is very different from Reid’s. His original play seems to insist on the unbridgeability of racial divisions, whereas Reid’s characters overcome them. Nevertheless, I shall suggest that Boucicault incorporates into The Octoroon the dramatic interest in social distinctions and hierarchies which is evident in his other plays, including the ‘‘Irish dramas,’’ The Colleen Bawn and The Shaughraun. This is particularly evident in the dynamics of Boucicault’s dialogue. Many readings of The Octoroon concentrate on single speeches and pay relatively little attention to dramatic interaction, but as I shall show, it is in the interplay between characters that Boucicault displays a dramatic sensitivity to social relationships and institutions. The play’s exploration of the social implications of the ‘‘Octoroon’s’’ mixed heritage balances its sensationalist racial essentialism, and this may help to explain the complicated and contradictory ways in which contemporaries interpreted its stance on slavery…

Read or purchase the article here.

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The Octoroon and English Opinions of Slavery

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United Kingdom, United States on 2011-12-17 19:31Z by Steven

The Octoroon and English Opinions of Slavery

American Quarterly
Volume 8, Number 2 (Summer, 1956)
pages 166-170

Nils Erik Enkvist
Akademi Abo, Finland

After his great successes, and notably that of Colleen Bawn, Dion Boucicault became something of a leading figure among English-speaking playwrights, while the critics as well as the public eagerly watched his prolific pen. In the summer of 1861, everyone in London knew he was about to produce his topical play about slavery, which had been so favorably received in the United States. This was indeed a subject well cut out for his cosmopolitan powers; when, after considerable delay, The Octoroon was finally presented at the Adelphi Theatre on Monday, November 18th, 1861, it came as a shock both to the playwright and to the critics that the fifth act was hailed by the audience with many rude noises. The reasons for this were debated at some length in the London papers; they provide a significant insight into Anglo-American relations at that time.

As readers of Professor Quinn’s Representative American Plays will recall, the story of The Octoroon was based upon the fact that a white man could not marry the one-eighth-Negro slave girl he loved. In the original fifth act Zoe had poisoned herself to preserve her maiden purity from the ruffianly overseer who had bought her. It was Zoe’s suicide that finally roused the tempers of the English audience. Possibly they felt cheated, having read in their playbills how Southerners sometimes escaped the predicament of the present hero and heroine by cutting their veins and mixing their blood, which, technically, sufficed to make a colored person of a white man. This hoary stock device was not used, and the tragic impact of the octoroon

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The Octoroon: A Play, In Four Acts

Posted in Arts, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2011-04-26 02:19Z by Steven

The Octoroon: A Play, In Four Acts

First Performed at the Winter Garden Theatre
New York, New York
December, 1859

Dion Boucicault, ESQ (1820-1890)

Text from James A. Cannavino Library, Marist University, Poughkeepsie, New York

Characters Original Cast

GEORGE PEYTON (Mrs. Peyton’s
Nephew, educated in Europe, and just returned home)

Mr. A. H.

(formerly Overseer of Terrebonne, but now Owner of one half of the

Mr. T. B. Johnston.

(a Yankee from Massachusetts, now Overseer of Terrebonne, great on
improvements and inventions, once a Photographic Operator, and been
a little of everything generally)

Mr. J. Jefferson.

 PETE (an “Ole Uncle,” once the late Judge’s
body servant, but now “too ole to work, sa”)

Mr. G. Jamieson.

 SUNNYSIDE (a Planter, Neighbour, and Old Friend of the

Mr. G. Holland.

(a Rich Planter)

Mr. Stoddart.

(a Yellow Boy, a favourite of the late Judge’s, and so allowed to do much as he

Miss Burke.

(Captain of the Magnolia Steamer)

Mr. Harrison.

(an Auctioneer and Slave Salesman)

Mr. Russell.

(a Young Creole Planter)

Miss H. Secor.

(an Overseer)

Mr. Peck.

(a Planter)

Mr. Tree.

(the Auctioneer’s Clerk)

Mr. Ponisi.

(a Slave)

Mr. Styles.

(an Indian Chief of the Lepan Tribe)

Mr. Pearson.

(of Terrebonne Plantation, in the Attakapas, Widow of the late Judge Peyton)

Mrs. Blake.

(an Octoroon Girl, free, the Natural Child of the late Judge by a Quadroon

Mrs. J. H. Allen.

(only Daughter and Heiress to Sunnyside, a Southern Belle)

Mrs. Stoddart.

(a Yellow Girl, a Slave)

Miss Gimber

(the Cook, a Slave)

 Mrs. Dunn.


Miss Clinton.

(a Quadroon Slave)

Miss Walters.
Planters, Slaves, Deck Hands, &c.

Read the entire play here.


Fugitive Vision: Slave Image and Black Identity in Antebellum Narrative

Posted in Books, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2009-12-26 01:18Z by Steven

Fugitive Vision: Slave Image and Black Identity in Antebellum Narrative

Indiana University Press
272 pages
30 b&w photos, 6.125 x 9.25
ISBN-13: 978-0-253-34944-6
ISBN: 0-253-34944-3

Michael A. Chaney, Associate Professor of English
Dartmouth College

Analyzing the impact of black abolitionist iconography on early black literature and the formation of black identity, Fugitive Vision examines the writings of Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, William and Ellen Craft, Harriet Jacobs, and the slave potter David Drake. Juxtaposing pictorial and literary representations, the book argues that the visual offered an alternative to literacy for current and former slaves, whose works mobilize forms of illustration that subvert dominant representations of slavery by both apologists and abolitionists. From a portrait of Douglass’s mother as Ramses to the incised snatches of proverb and prophesy on Dave the Potter‘s ceramics, the book identifies a “fugitive vision” that reforms our notions of antebellum black identity, literature, and cultural production.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Looking Beyond and Through the Fugitive Icon
  • Part 1. Fugitive Gender: Black Mothers, White Faces, Sanguine Sons
    1. Racing and Erasing the Slave Mother: Frederick Douglass, Parodic Looks, and Ethnographic Illustration
    2. Looking for Slavery at the Crystal Palace: William Wells Brown and the Politics of Exhibition(ism)
    3. The Uses in Seeing: Mobilizing the Portrait in Drag in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
  • Part 2. Still Moving: Revamped Technologies of Surveillance
    1. Panoramic Bodies: From Banvard‘s Mississippi to Brown’s Iron Collar
    2. The Mulatta in the Camera: Harriet Jacobs’s Historicist Gazing and Dion Boucicault‘s Mulatta Obscura
    3. Throwing Identity in the Poetry-Pottery of Dave the Potter
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index
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