A Romance of the Republic

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Slavery, United States on 2015-12-10 03:19Z by Steven

A Romance of the Republic

University Press of Kentucky
2014-07-11 (Originally published in 1867)
464 pages
6 x 9
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8131-0928-2
Web PDF ISBN: 978-0-8131-4910-3

Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880)

Edited by:

Dana D. Nelson, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

A Romance of the Republic, published in 1867, was Lydia Maria Child’s fourth novel and the capstone of her remarkable literary career. Written shortly after the Civil War, it offered a progressive alternative to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Writer, magazine publisher and outspoken abolitionist, Child defied the norms of gender and class decorum in this novel by promoting interracial marriage as a way blacks and whites could come to view each other with sympathy and understanding. In constructing the tale of fair-skinned Rosa and Flora Royal—daughters of a slaveowner whose mother was also the daughter of a slaveowner—Child consciously attempted to counter two popular claims: that racial intermarriage was “unnatural” and that slavery was a benevolent institution. But Child’s target was not merely racism. Her characters are forced both to reconsider their attitudes toward “white” and “black” and to question the very foundation of the patriarchal society in which they live.

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Writing Reconstruction: Racial Fluidity and National Reunion in A Romance of the Republic

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-12-10 02:29Z by Steven

Writing Reconstruction: Racial Fluidity and National Reunion in A Romance of the Republic

ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance
Volume 61, Number 4, 2015 (No. 241 O.S.)
pages 631-666
DOI: 10.1353/esq.2015.0017

Lori Robison, Associate Professor of English
University of North Dakota

Speaking to a nation traumatized by the divisive war and anxious to find reunification, Lydia Maria Child, with her 1867 novel A Romance of the Republic, presents a portrait of a new national family that transcends the narrow racial and regional identifications of the antebellum past. Carolyn Karcher, Child’s biographer, notes that the novel was very consciously written to address the contemporary challenges of Reconstruction: “Written against the backdrop of the betrayal Johnson was engineering of all the promises the war had seemingly endorsed—genuine emancipation for African Americans; recognition of the indispensable role they had played as soldiers, spies, and auxiliaries; and their incorporation as equal citizens into a truly reconstructed Union—A Romance of the Republic insistently rehearses the history that its white audience was so rapidly forgetting.” This characterization of Child’s motivations for writing the novel hints at its complex rhetorical situation: the novel delves back into the recent, pre-war past to revisit the arguments against slavery, as a means of making the case for more progressive Reconstruction policies in the present and future. Worried, rightfully, that Reconstruction would undo the potential that emancipation had brought for a more egalitarian society, Child faced a contradictory writing task: she needed to represent a future in which the national “house divided” has been re-united while, simultaneously, not letting her readers forget the national divisiveness created by slavery in the recent past.

It is these contradictory tasks, I believe, that led Child to choose the sentimental romance as the genre through which to write this early novel of Reconstruction. To address the threat of cultural amnesia, the novel, which is set almost entirely in the antebellum period, uses appeals to sympathy to undermine slavery—just as do Child’s earlier abolitionist texts. Yet to also avoid entrenching resistant readers in the past, the novel, at the same time, uses the romance’s insistence on union to represent a more promising future. Conflating domestic union with national (re)union (a conflation signaled by the novel’s title), Child gives her readers a means of imagining a new post-war nation. The novel’s final scenes take place in the days following the end of the Civil War and it is in these final pages that the “republic” of the title is imagined in the new domestic space that heroines Rosa and Flora have achieved for themselves. Though it does not end with a wedding, the novel nonetheless does end like the traditional romance plot, with the promise of a new, united family and continuing, utopian domesticity.

Rhetorically, then, Child’s choice of genre makes a great deal of sense. My interest, however, in exploring A Romance of the Republic is to better understand how the literature of Reconstruction—even those texts with very progressive politics—would ultimately pave the way for the pro-Confederate romances that became so popular by the turn of the century. Post-Reconstruction literary representations of the regional and racial politics of national reunification came increasingly to be lodged in the genre of the sentimental romance. Published early in Reconstruction, A Romance of the Republic initiates this trend, largely because of its transitional status as an abolitionist text addressing post-abolition issues. As June Howard reminds us, “empathy and sympathy have different politics at different moments, and at any given moment are likely to have mixed and complicated politics,” and A Romance uses many of the rhetorical strategies that Child and other abolitionists had used so effectively in the fight against slavery, although the post-war fight for racial equality had very different political stakes. The hallmarks of the sentimental romance, sympathetic connection built through an appeal to union and family, effectively undermined slavery by asserting the humanity of those who had been enslaved. However, this sympathetic appeal also, I believe, worked to fix identities at a time in which our understanding of racial and national identities could have been more fluid and thus could have developed quite differently than they did. In…

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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States, Women on 2015-10-01 01:54Z by Steven

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself

Thayer and Eldridge

Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813-1897)

Edited by Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880)

Read the entire book here or here.

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Deconstructing Pseudo-Scientific Anthropology: Anténor Firmin and the Reconceptualization of African Humanity

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Media Archive on 2015-03-23 01:41Z by Steven

Deconstructing Pseudo-Scientific Anthropology: Anténor Firmin and the Reconceptualization of African Humanity

The Journal of Pan African Studies
Volume 7, Number 2, August 2014
pages 9-33

Gershom Williams, Adjunct Professor of African-American History and African-American Studies
Mesa Community College, Mesa, Arizona

“The science of inequality is emphatically a science of White people. It is they who have invented it, and set it going, who have maintained, cherished and propagated it, thanks to their observations and their deductions.” –Jean Finot, Race Prejudice (1907)

“A preponderance of (fossil) and genetic evidence has revealed, virtually beyond a doubt, that the same Europeans who created the idea of race and White supremacy are the genetic progeny of the very Africans they devalued.” –Salim Muwakkil, Chicago Tribune


Euro-American ideas and assumptions regarding African innate inferiority and racial inequality are central to the pseudo-scientific ‘race myth’ of White supremacy. In their search to find an expedient explanation, rationalization and justification for the horrific holocaust of enslavement, Europeans and later White Americans developed the international thesis and concept of African biological and intellectual inferiority.

In this exploratory essay, I am endeavoring to present a critical review of the anti-racist, vindicationist tradition of African American and Haitian intellectuals who challenged, rejected and refuted the ‘scientific racism’ of Euro-American ethnologists, Egyptologists, anthropologists, historians, philosophers, and physicians.

In another essay that we discuss in the contents of this manuscript, anti-racist theorists Stepan and Gilman argue that those stigmatized and stereotyped by the ideology of ‘scientific racism’ published prolific counter narratives that remain obscured and unrecognized by the historians of mainstream science.

What did the men and women of African descent in the diaspora, categorized by the biological, medical and anthropological sciences as racially inferior have to say about the matter? How did they respond to the charges and claims made about them in the name of science? In seeking to provide credible answers to the latter questions, we are re-visiting the powerful and illuminating publications by Black American and Haitian writers of the pre-Antènor Firmin era which are viable proof of the vindicationist tradition inherent among diasporan Black intellectuals. This school or community of literate intellectuals boldly offers a passionate and consistent rhetoric of resistance to economic and psychological enslavement and the mis-education of their people.

This essay remembers and pays homage to those public intellectuals of the early and late nineteenth century who dared to disagree with popular opinion and proceeded to debate the dangerous discourse of race and the fallacy of White supremacy. Central to our narrative are the names and voices of David Walker, Lydia Maria Child, Frederick Douglass, Martin R. Delaney and George Washington Williams. All of the aforementioned writers preceded the publication of Haitian scholar and statesmen Joseph Antènor Firmin’s The Equality of the Human Races in 1885. Haitian anthropologist, Egyptologist, Pan-Africanist and politician J. Antènor Firmin did not rise out of an intellectual vacuum to conduct study and research for his massive and masterful manuscript.

As I attempt to demonstrate in this paper, there is a long standing pre and post Firmin intellectual tradition in the United States and Haiti during the early nineteenth and continuing throughout the twentieth century. Like many of the intellectuals already mentioned, Antènor Firmin (a descendant of the Haitian intellectual Maroons) obviously did not possess an inferiority complex. He was not intellectually intimidated by the dominant thinking and behavior of the advocates of racial ranking and hierarchy.

A bold and brilliant thinker, he re-envisioned and re-conceptualized the image and pre-colonial cultural heritage of African descended people. Lastly, my essential purpose in presenting this paper is to convey to the reader(s) that prior to the invention and propagation of the ‘race myth’, the concept and belief in Black inferiority was non-existent.

As classicist historian Frank M. Snowden Jr. writes in his iconic text, Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks, “…Nothing comparable to the virulent color prejudice of modern times existed in the ancient world. This is the view of most scholars who have examined the evidence and who have come to conclusions such as these: The ancients did not fall into the error of biological racism; Black skin color was not a sign of inferiority…” (Snowden 1983: 63) By confronting and deconstructing the multitude of racial myths and stereotypes fashioned by Euro-Americans centuries ago, Antènor Firmin and others who believed in liberty, equality and fraternity could dismantle and destroy the foundational pillars of scientific racism. It is indeed instructive to remember what anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits stated a half century ago. “…The myth of the Negro (African) past is one of the principal supports of race prejudice in this

Read the entire article here.

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Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Posted in Books, History, Law, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Slavery, United States on 2013-06-10 00:00Z by Steven

Family Money: Property, Race, and Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Oxford University Press
November 2012
224 Pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780199897704

Jeffory A. Clymer, Professor of English
University of Kentucky

  • Sophisticated interdisciplinary treatment of literature’s interaction with the law
  • Dramatically revises scholarship on racial identity by emphasizing race’s connection to family and property rights
  • Demonstrates that race was entwined with economics well beyond direct issue of slavery in the nineteenth century
  • Nuanced, flexible, non-doctrinaire interpretations of both well-known and less familiar literary works

Family Money explores the histories of formerly enslaved women who tried to claim inheritances left to them by deceased owners, the household traumas of mixed-race slaves, post-Emancipation calls for reparations, and the economic fallout from anti-miscegenation marriage laws. Authors ranging from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Frank Webb, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Chesnutt, to Lydia Maria Child recognized that intimate interracial relationships took myriad forms, often simultaneously-sexual, marital, coercive, familial, pleasurable, and painful. Their fiction confirms that the consequences of these relationships for nineteenth-century Americans meant thinking about more than the legal structure of racial identity. Who could count as family (and when), who could own property (and when), and how racial difference was imagined (and why) were emphatically bound together. Demonstrating that notions of race were entwined with economics well beyond the direct issue of slavery, Family Money reveals interracial sexuality to be a volatile mixture of emotion, economics, and law that had dramatic, long-term financial consequences.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. “This Most Illegal Family”: Sex, Slavery, and the Politics of Inheritance
  • 2. Blood, Truth, and Consequences: Partus Sequitur Ventrem and the Problem of Legal Title
  • 3. Plantation Heiress Fiction, Slavery, and the Properties of White Marriage
  • 4. Reparations for Slavery and Lydia Maria Child’s Reconstruction of the Family
  • 5. The Properties of Marriage in Chesnutt and Hopkins
  • Coda “Race Feeling”
  • Notes
  • Index
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Slippery Language and False Dilemmas: The Passing Novels of Child, Howells, and Harper

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-06-28 02:00Z by Steven

Slippery Language and False Dilemmas: The Passing Novels of Child, Howells, and Harper

American Literature
Volume 75, Number 4, December 2003
pages 813-841

Julie Cary Nerad, Associate Professor of English
Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland

Conceived in slavery, gestated in racialist science, and bred in Jim Crow segregation, the U.S. race system calcified into a visual epistemology of racial difference based largely on skin color. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this visual schema of biological difference, despite fluctuation within racial categories—even within whiteness itself—was generally reduced to just white and nonwhite. This illusion of racial dichotomy sometimes allowed very light-skinned African Americans to choose between a black or a white identity. “The position of the pale [black] individual,” wrote African American psychiatrist Charles Gibson in 1931, “is analogous to that of a traveler who has come to a forked road. One branch of the fork is remaining Negro; the other is ‘passing for white.'” In Gibson’s schema, light-skinned African Americans could choose to retain their black identity and risk reverse discrimination within the darker-skinned community, or they could pass as white through an identity of deception, trading the ties of their African American family and friends for economic opportunity, a choice often conceptualized as crass materialism. Recent scholarship on passing for white has complicated Gibson’s simple binary of individual choice by recognizing racial passing as an aggressive political challenge to the ideological construct of race. As a form of performative trespass, many have argued, passing exposes race as a performative identity category, like gender and class. Recognizing this dimension of racial identity does not reduce the cultural and psychological significance of race; rather, it attempts to separate race from biology and the fallacious hierarchy of innate difference that has been used historically to justify systemic inequity and violence.

Despite its impetus, however, recent critical work on race often illustrates the degree to which the one-drop rule still has a toehold on American racial consciousness. “One drop” of “black blood” continues to imply a responsibility to blackness that academic deconstructions of race have not significantly altered. One goal of my essay is to investigate how continuing misconceptions about race as a biological imperative influence our readings of novels about racial passing, despite our acknowledgment that race is performative. The cause I identify here is twofold. First, the ideology of racial uplift and the tenacious persistence of the one-drop rule converge to influence our perceptions of race and our reading of passing novels. Racial uplift, with its debt of responsibility, has become a significant part of our racial ideology: if one’s family is African American, if one has any “drop” of black blood, then one has a responsibility to the race and should proclaim oneself black. That is, no matter how “white” one’s skin, we assume that passers are black and censure their attempts to live outside the bounds of that identity. This assumption evinces the tenacity of—and simultaneously reinforces—the one-drop rule.

Second, in focusing almost exclusively on passing as an intentional act of racial identification, scholars have regarded it as primarily a political challenge to the racial status quo. In many novels of passing, however, the characters’ sense of racial identity develops less consciously, in conjunction with (not simply in conscious opposition to) the racially marked socioeconomic and cultural spaces they inhabit. Legally black but corporeally white, these passers are initially unaware that their genetic heritage includes a “drop” of black blood. I call these critically neglected characters unintentional passers. They do not know that in the eyes of the law they are passing. Texts of unintentional passing, and there are many, destabilize notions of biologically constructed racial identity precisely because the passers are unaware that they are transgressing legal boundaries. The discrepancy between legal race categories and racial self-perceptions reveals how race functions in the United States to maintain socioeconomic inequalities by controlling an individual’s sense of identity and her place within family, community, and nation. Our own tendency to conceptualize these fictional characters as…

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Crossing the Color Line: Narratives of Passing in American Literature

Posted in Course Offerings, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United Kingdom on 2012-01-03 22:58Z by Steven

Crossing the Color Line: Narratives of Passing in American Literature

St. Mary’s College of Maryland
English 400.01
Fall 2008

Christine Wooley, Assistant Professor of English
This course will consider representations of passing (and thus also miscegenation) in nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. culture. While passing has often been depicted-and dismissed-as an act of racial betrayal, more recent criticism has suggested that we view these depictions of racial transgression and deception in more complicated ways. In this class, we will analyze various narratives centered around passing and miscegenation as sites through which we can better examine-and understand-the construction of racial identities in particular historical and political contexts. We will ask whether or not narratives about passing and miscegenation challenge the stability of racial categories. Likewise, we will pay close attention to how such narratives also engage issues of class, ethnicity, and gender. Syllabus may include works by authors such as Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown, Lydia Maria Child, Frances Harper, William Dean Howells, Pauline Hopkins, Mark Twain, Charles Chesnutt, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, Nella Larsen, George Schuyler, Toni Morrison, and Philip Roth. In addition, this class will also draw on a selection of historical and legal documents, current critical works on race, and films such as The Jazz Singer and Imitation of Life.

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Over the river and through the woods: Miscegenation and the American experiment

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2011-08-12 03:04Z by Steven

Over the river and through the woods: Miscegenation and the American experiment

State University of New York at Buffalo
214 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3277744
ISBN: 9780549178705

Shelby Lucille Crosby

This dissertation examines how early American authors utilized the concept of miscegenation as a way to alter the American experiment. By invoking and exploring the paradox that Thomas Jefferson writes into existence with the Declaration of Independence and Notes on the State of Virginia, this dissertation seeks to illuminate the ways that early American authors were influenced by Jefferson’s paradoxical thoughts on race in America. How do these authors attempt to solve the Jeffersonian conundrum?

In chapter 1, “Practical Love: Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok, Miscegenation and Nation,” Child forwards miscegenation as a way to successfully combine Native American culture with Euro-American culture. In chapter 2, “The Body Politic and Cultural Miscegenation in Hope Leslie or, Early Times in the Massachusetts, ” I am intrigued by Sedgwick’s character, Magawisca. She becomes an agent of nation formation; it is through her that Hope learns self-control and composure. Ultimately, I interrogate Magawisca’s position in the nation state and her disappearance at the end of the novel.

In chapter three, “Challenging the Body Politic: William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or the President’s Daughter and Jeffersonian Republicanism” and chapter four, “‘This is my Gun’: Frank J. Webb’s Radical Black Domesticity,” I shift the discussion to African American literature and its use of miscegenation. In Clotel, William Wells Brown creates a fictionalized account of Thomas Jefferson’s African American descendants. Using Jeffersonian myth, Brown invokes the nation’s founding documents and develop mulatto characters that are the physically embodiment of the Jeffersonian paradox. And in chapter four I examine Webb’s use of domesticity and miscegenation as a way to forward a new black middle class that is capable of being free and, more importantly, being citizens.

A dissertation submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the State University of New York at Buffalo in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degrees of Doctor of Philosophy

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: “Practical Love: Lydia Maria Child’s Hobomok, Miscegenation and Nation”
  • Chapter 2: “The Body Politic and Cultural Miscegenation in Hope Leslie or, Early Times in the Massachusetts
  • Chapter 3: “Challenging the Body Politic: William Wells Brown’s Clotel; or the President’s Daughter and Jeffersonian Republicanism”
  • Chapter 4: “‘This is my Gun’: Frank J. Webb’s Radical Black Domesticity”
  • Conclusion
  • End Notes
  • Sources

Purchase the dissertation here.

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From exile to transcendence: racial mixture and the journey of revision in the works of Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2011-06-26 19:50Z by Steven

From exile to transcendence: racial mixture and the journey of revision in the works of Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
May 2010

Suzanne M. Lynch

My study, entitled From Exiles to Transcendences focuses on five authors: Lydia Maria Child, Hannah Crafts, Kate Chopin, James Weldon Johnson, and Jean Toomer. It examines each author’s effort to represent the mixed-race character as a constant “process of becoming” (Hall, Questions of Identity 4). This study aims to convey the distinctiveness of the American mixed-race character in American literature and to provide a thorough reading of how this distinctiveness is portrayed and sustained throughout the scope of the selected texts. My dissertation identifies the mixed-race voice as experientially distinct from other American raced voices while acknowledging the mixed-race character as one who demonstrates a connectedness to a plurality of racial cultures. The following chapters span a period of approximately 100 years and illustrate a common concern among them, albeit from differing perspectives and influences, regarding how home and family function as fluid spaces of racial subjectivity. My study maintains a position that the above authors questioned the presumed irreversibility of an entrenched understanding of family ties; that they challenged and rescripted the historically defined self with a self that privileges experience and discovery over pre-given identities; and that they depicted their characters as evolving subjects who created themselves with name and identity as they moved toward their “process of becoming.”

Read the dissertation here (may require log-in).

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Illegal fictions : white women writers and the miscegenated imagination 1857-1869 (E. D. E. N. Southworth, Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, Lydia Maria Child)

Posted in Dissertations, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2010-08-27 18:55Z by Steven

Illegal fictions : white women writers and the miscegenated imagination 1857-1869 (E. D. E. N. Southworth, Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, Lydia Maria Child)

Indiana University

Katharine Nicholson Ings, Associate Professor of English
Manchester College, North Manchester, Indiana

This dissertation examines how popular nineteenth-century white women writers depicted interracial romance in their fiction. I focus on E. D. E. N. Southworth, Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Lydia Maria Child, authors who composed what I call illegal fictions, largely neglected works that explored the possibilities of interracial unions between blacks and whites. These authors, all abolitionists, denounce slavery in their works while simultaneously reflecting upon the limitations of the feminine roles that they were expected to play in society.

I approach their fictions through three critical lenses: racial theory, sentimental narrative theory, and biography to determine the implications of the hybrid individual, national, and textual identities present in the narratives and in the authors’ lives. On the one hand, these illegal fictions attempt to negotiate the tension between white women and black men and women, each of whom strove to be recognized as citizens. On the other hand, their fictions point to how the idea of miscegenation literally a mixing of races informed the creativity of these women authors during the years spanning the Civil War. At the imaginative level the authors offer visions of either a successful or failed multicultural America; at the generic level they engage in a blending of forms: slave narrative merges with the sentimental novel to initiate a dialogue between African and Caucasian American literary traditions.

Login at HKU to read the dissertation here.

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