What’s Radical About “Mixed Race?”

Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2015-05-19 19:29Z by Steven

What’s Radical About “Mixed Race?”

Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU
8 Washington Mews
New York, New York 10003
Phone: (212) 998-3700
Monday, 2015-04-20, 18:00-20:00 EDT (Local Time) | Free

Since the 1990s, mainstream media has heralded the growing population of self-identified “mixed race” people in the US and Canada as material proof of a post-racial era (a recent example: National Geographic‘s 2013 feature “The Changing Face of America,” whose title paraphrases a Time feature [at right] from two decades prior). Meanwhile, foundational multiracial activists and scholars like Maria Root claim a doubled oppression—racism via white supremacy and ostracizing from so-called “monoracial” people of color. A growing body of Critical Mixed Race Studies literature is challenging both positions, questioning the assumption that multiracial activism and scholarship is necessarily anti-racist.

Minelle Mahtani critically locates how an apolitical and ahistorical Canadian “model multiracial” upholds the multicultural claims of the Canadian settler state. Jared Sexton calls to task multiracial activists who leverage a mixed race identity in opposition to those who are “all black, all the time.”

Eschewing an apolitical “celebration” of mixed race, this panel examines the movement’s implications for multiracial coalition and the future of race in the US and Canada, asking: does the multiracial movement challenge—or actually reinforce—the logics of structural racism?…

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Two Takes on ‘Imitation of Life’: Exploitation in Eastmancolor

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2015-05-17 23:22Z by Steven

Two Takes on ‘Imitation of Life’: Exploitation in Eastmancolor

The New York Times
2015-05-14

J. Hoberman

“I would have made the picture just for the title,” Douglas Sirk said of his last Hollywood production, “Imitation of Life” (1959). But, newly released on Blu-ray by Universal, along with its original version, directed in 1934 by John M. Stahl, the movie is far more than an evocative turn of phrase.

This tale of two single mothers, one black and the other white — and of maternal love, exploitation and crossing the color line — is a magnificent social symptom. Both versions were taken from the 1933 best seller by Fannie Hurst, a generally maligned popular writer if one whose novels, the historian Ann Douglas notes in “Terrible Honesty,” her study of Jazz Age culture, constitute “a neglected source on the emergence of modern feminine sexuality.”

Mr. Stahl’s “Imitation of Life” movie was certainly the “shameless tear-jerker” that the New York Times reviewer Andre Sennwald called it, as well as a prime example of the melodramatic mode known in the Yiddish theater as “mama-drama.” But it was not without progressive intent and, released during the second year of the New Deal, addressed issues of race, class and gender almost head-on.

The white protagonist, Bea Pullman (Claudette Colbert), is a not-quite-self-made businesswoman; the most complex and sympathetic character, Peola Johnson (Fredi Washington), is a casualty of American racism, both institutionalized and internalized. Behind both is the self-effacing powerhouse known as Aunt Delilah (Louise Beavers), who is the light-skinned Peola’s black mother and the source of the secret recipe on which Bea founds her pancake empire — not to mention its smiling trademark.

Happily ripped off by her white partner for the rest of her life, Beavers embodies exploited African-American labor, something the movie acknowledges by giving her a funeral on the level of a state occasion. The real martyr, however, is Washington’s Peola. The film historian Donald Bogle called her “a character in search of a movie” — but the tragic mulatto is the only part Hollywood would allow this accomplished and politically aware actress to play. In effect, she dramatizes her own segregated condition on screen…

Read the entire article here.

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Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse by Kimberly Snyder Manganelli (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2015-05-10 01:37Z by Steven

Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse by Kimberly Snyder Manganelli (review)

Callaloo
Volume 38, Number 2, Spring 2015
pages 405-408

Justin Rogers-Cooper, Associate Professor of English
LaGuardia Community College/City University of New York, Long Island City, New York

Manganellia, Kimberly S., Transatlantic Spectacles of Race: The Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012)

In her accessible and original book, Kimberly Synder Manganelli examines the circulation of two key figures in nineteenth-century culture and literature, the Tragic Mulatta and the Tragic Muse, by following their evolution over the course of the nineteenth century. The book’s novelty arises from its insistence that these “two crucial literary types” should be compared across national boundaries, and should be understood as complimentary cultural archetypes (6). On both counts she succeeds, though her discussions about the life-choices possible for these figures reveal much of the text’s power. Victorianists will mark Manganelli’s transnational methodology, and literary scholars may enjoy her parallel analysis of African American and Jewish characters. Feminist and women’s studies scholars will note her attention to the sexual politics of erotic commodification linked to the commercial circulation of these genre types. The general reader will follow how “mixed-race” female protagonists won social mobility and confronted male exploitation as they maneuvered the auction block, the public stage, and the home.

Manganelli’s introduction provides a general context for her themes. She notes the transnational cult of true womanhood in the nineteenth century, and how the figures of the Tragic Muse and Tragic Mulatta intersected and diverged from it. Relying on scholars such as Shawn Michelle Smith, Manganelli asserts that these two types upset codes of ideal womanhood, an idea structured around white women, by creating a “crisis of visibility in the public sphere” (9). Many narratives revolved around the vulnerability of mixed-race women to male predation. For the enslaved Tragic Mulatta, this danger was particularly acute, and often reduced her choices to sexual submission or death. The Tragic Muse, on the other hand, functioned somewhat differently. Her artistic prowess and magnetic sexuality often allowed her other options. Transatlantic Spectacles of Race emphasizes how both types of heroines attempted “to resist the conventional narratives” (16).

In her first chapter, Manganelli looks to British, French, and American travel narratives from Jamaica and Saint-Domingue to examine how “contradictory images of white and mixed-race Creoles . . . created the Transnational Mulatta, an imperial figure who preceded the imperiled Tragic Mulatta in the eighteenth-century transatlantic imaginary” (18). The mixed-race West Indian woman inspired fears that cycled throughout the nineteenth century: she might “threaten the purity of English blood,” in this case through intermarriages by families seeking her wealth and property (26). In turn, Manganelli turns to texts such as Laurette Ravinet’s Mémoires d’une Créole du Port-au-Prince (1844) to elaborate on the ways colonial societies tried to differentiate mixed-race and white women. She argues the Transnational Mulatta morphed from mistress to heiress in novels such as the anonymously published The Woman of Color (1808) and Leonara Samsay’s Zelica, the Creole (1820), a development that would see wider reproduction decades later in novels such as Jane Eyre (1847). She argues that the Saint-Domingue Revolution altered the depiction of mixed-race West Indian women for British and American authors, from a voiceless body of anxiety and fantasy into a domestic dependent.

The second chapter extends Manganelli’s inquiry into the formation of the Tragic Mulatta by looking at the practice of plaçage in antebellum New Orleans, where free women of color could arrange financial and sexual relationships with wealthy men. Manganelli maps their transformation from “self-marketing and self-commodification to the stereotypical Tragic Mulatta, who had no sexual agency and possessed no ownership of her body” (38). As in West Indian travel narratives, some in New Orleans showed concern over segregating free women of color from white women, and therefore were upset by integrated dancehalls and by the public display of wealth by beautiful placées. In the abolitionist era, though, she tells that writers romanticized placées more frequently as “victims of interracial marriage laws” (42). Although the relative autonomy of the placées gave them “a purchase on whiteness and a certain degree of protection and economic freedom,” they remained exposed to the “racial peril” of enslavement: auctions for fair-skinned “fancy girls” brought high prices (55). Rendered both “virtuous and wanton,” the placées inspired Joseph Ingraham’s sensation novel The Quadroone, or, St. Michael’s Day

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Dragons in the Land of the Condor: Writing Tusán in Peru

Posted in Articles, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2015-04-29 19:51Z by Steven

Dragons in the Land of the Condor: Writing Tusán in Peru

University of Arizona Press
2014
264 pages
6.00 x 9.00
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8165-3111-0

Ignacio López-Calvo, Professor of Latin American Literature
University of California, Merced

Foreword by Eugenio Chang-Rodríguez, Professor Emeritus

Building on his 2013 study on Nikkei cultural production in Peru, in Dragons in the Land of the Condor Ignacio López-Calvo studies the influence of a Chinese ethnic background in the writing of several twentieth- and twenty-first-century Sino-Peruvian authors.

While authors like Siu Kam Wen and Julia Wong often rely on their Chinese cultural heritage for inspiration, many others, like Pedro Zulen, Mario Wong, and Julio Villanueva Chang, choose other sources of inspiration and identification. López-Calvo studies the different strategies used by these writers to claim either their belonging in the Peruvian national project or their difference as a minority ethnic group within Peru. Whether defending the rights of indigenous Peruvians, revealing the intricacies of a life of self-exploitation among Chinese shopkeepers, exploring their identitarian dilemmas, or re-creating—beyond racial memory—life under the political violence in Lima of the 1980s, these authors provide their community with a voice and a collective agency, while concomitantly repositioning contemporary Peruvian culture as transnational.

López-Calvo bridges from his earlier study of Peruvian Nikkei’s testimonials and literature and raises this question: why are Chinese Peruvian authors seemingly more disconnected from their Asian heritage than Japanese Peruvian authors from theirs? The author argues that the Chinese arrival in Peru half a century earlier influenced a stronger identification with the criollo world. Yet he argues that this situation may soon be changing as the new geopolitical and economic influence of the People’s Republic of China in the world, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, affects the way Chinese and Sino–Latin American communities and their cultures are produced and perceived.

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Visualizing Racial Mixture and Movement: Music, Notation, Illustration

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-23 00:40Z by Steven

Visualizing Racial Mixture and Movement: Music, Notation, Illustration

J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists
Volume 3, Number 1, Spring 2015
pages 146-155
DOI: 10.1353/jnc.2015.0009

Brigitte Fielder, Assistant Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

The archive of nineteenth-century visual culture abounds with illustrations of racial difference reflect anxieties about racial mixture and movement. Race extends beyond visual expression and detection, but racialized bodies have been continually represented by images meant to convey racial difference, often via racist caricatures. The piece I discuss here adds, to the depiction of racial difference, mixture and movement conveyed through the representation of sound, in written music (fig. 1). Layering illustrations of figures in dance atop the symbolic notation of the aural, the music conveys its narrative of race via musical rather than literary genres: the waltz and the march. In this brief essay I will begin to unpack this particular representation of racialized bodies as visualized in a remarkable, and remarkably little-known, piece of sheet music distributed by George P. Reed, a Boston music store owner and seller of musical instruments, instruction books, and sheet music during the 1830s and 1840s.

Racial representation has often been confined by the media used to depict its complexity—from language that describes race via metaphors of color to the technology of racial representation in black-and-white that obscures nondualistic racial gradation. Written music, like the written word, is a technology of representation. The visual representation of music and the visual representation of race are similar in that they are not mimetic but symbolic. Just as quarter and half notes stand in for certain pitches and durations that might be interpreted through variations such as instrumentation and style, the presence and absence of black ink represents racial difference that in reality is nuanced by gradations in complexion, historical contexts, and cultural resonances of racialization.

Music here implies the aural, but also the movement of dance; the waltz and the march produce bodies in motion. The movement of racialized bodies through geopolitical spaces and with relation to one another hints at race’s fluidity. In the two genres on this single sheet, we see what might be understood as different methodological frames for understanding their respective narratives of race. The waltz’s male and female pairing of partners suggests heterosexuality. The march denotes a different kind of movement, not simply interpersonal but movement through geopolitical spaces and in militaristic endeavors.

The limitations of the musical form for representing race correspond to other limitations of racial representation in metaphors of color, racialized value, and racial distinctions that forgo complexity in favor of legibility. The extent to which race becomes legible through musical notation is admittedly limited. This sheet music is, in many ways, difficult to read. The stick-figure drawings crowd the notes, making one wonder at the practicality of playing the musical annotation. In this respect, the sheet is poised to function less as legible musical notation and more as a visual showpiece. Notwithstanding its visuality, the flatness of stick-figure characters obscures the political import that is clearer in other racial/racist caricatures. Nevertheless, these juxtapositions of the movement of racialized bodies and the movement of music thematize relations of race within musical form, marking race as always in motion, unfixed, and progressing through a specific, readable generic narrative.

Amalgamation Waltz

In nineteenth-century America, the image of a racially integrated dance was a popular site for American anxieties about race relations. Illustrations of integrated dances appeared throughout the antebellum period, in Amalgamation Waltz from Edward Williams Clay’s 1839 “Practical Amalgamation” series of lithographs, his 1845 Amalgamation Polka, and the 1864 political caricature The Miscegenation Ball. The underlying movement of music composes a compelling backdrop for understanding popular depictions of and reactions to racial mixture in nineteenth-century America. Illustrations of dance, movement, and music signal the similarly fluid notions of race that permeated antebellum discourse. While Clay’s Amalgamation Waltz is emphatic in its illustrated pairings of black men and white women, the musical notation of Reed’s music literalizes these juxtapositions of racial integration within the music itself. The three-beat measure of the waltz is composed of stick-figure illustrations, mostly of pairings of black men and white…

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“Almost Eliza”: Genre, Racialization, and Reading Mary King as the Mixed-Race Heroine of William G. Allen’s The American Prejudice Against Color

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2015-04-23 00:06Z by Steven

“Almost Eliza”: Genre, Racialization, and Reading Mary King as the Mixed-Race Heroine of William G. Allen’s The American Prejudice Against Color

Studies in American Fiction
Volume 40, Issue 1, Spring 2013
pages 1-25

Brigitte Nicole Fielder, Assistant Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

In 1853, Mary King, the white daughter of abolitionists, was engaged to marry William G. Allen, the “Coloured Professor” of New York Central College at McGrawville. The engagement stirred their upstate New York community into a popular controversy, inciting letters of family disapproval, newspaper commentary, and mob violence leading to their forced, though temporary, separation. Alongside his personal account of their engagement and marriage, in The American Prejudice Against Color: An Authentic Narrative, Showing How Easily the Nation Got into an Uproar (1853), Allen also reprinted various letters and newspaper articles both in support of and in opposition to his and King’s marriage. This array of accounts show how Mary King’s white womanhood becomes a function of genre: in the various stories of her relation to Allen, King’s race and sexuality are constructed according to the practices of reading her as either the white damsel of the captivity narrative or the mixed-race heroine of abolitionist fiction.

In a letter to Mary King written during the week before she and William Allen were secretly married, the couple’s friend John Porter wrote, “Your flight is a flight for freedom, and I can almost call you Eliza,” referencing the well-known mixed-race heroine of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Unlike Stowe’s Eliza, Allen and King were not fleeing literal enslavement, but the racial prejudice of people who had attempted to prevent their marriage. Thus, Porter’s evocation of abolitionist literature to explain King’s situation is intriguing not only because it refuses to perform the more obvious slippage of simply relegating prejudice against the African American William Allen (who was born to a free mixed-race woman and was never enslaved) to the discourse of slavery, but because it chooses the white woman as its subject and re-figures her in one of abolitionism’s most popular tropes of enslavement, the mixed-race heroine. Not merely an equation of all race-related persecution with slavery, Porter’s comparison of Mary King to Stowe’s Eliza Harris displaces the racist rhetoric of the couple’s forced separation, by which some newspaper commentators rendered King a “damsel” in need of white male protection from Allen, which the mob purported to give her. Instead, Porter’s reading of King places her in the abolitionist literary tradition, where her and Allen’s story reads as a narrative of African American fugitivity rather than white captivity. Moreover, Porter’s characterization of King as “almost . . . Eliza” emphasizes a close generic proximity to the figure of the mixed-race heroine, recognizing the interracial allegiance of King and Allen’s proposed kinship, and a re-racialization of the figure of the white woman along lines of her participation in interracial sexual relations and reproduction.

My analysis takes up Porter’s comparison of Mary King to Eliza Harris and reads King as the mixed-race heroine of The American Prejudice Against Color. In the private and public discourse surrounding Allen and King’s engagement and marriage, I examine themes of “amalgamation” and fugitivity in order to discuss how Mary King is figured according to different generic constructions of racialized womanhood in the two primary versions of the story Allen reproduces—that told by Allen, King, and their allies, and the version supporting the racist mob that separated the couple. First, I discuss the racist rhetorics by which Mary King is read in the tradition of what I call “anti-amalgamation” literature—a sub-genre of the body of writing that emerges in response to abolitionist literature, which has its roots in the American captivity narrative.

Read the entire article in HTML or PDF format.

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Reading Racist Literature

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive on 2015-04-18 21:48Z by Steven

Reading Racist Literature

New Yorker
2015-04-13

Elif Batuman, Staff Writer

Of the many passages that gave me pause when I first read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” in high school, the one I remember the most clearly is this conversation between Connie, Clifford, and the Irish writer Michaelis:

“I find I can’t marry an Englishwoman, not even an Irishwoman…”
“Try an American,” said Clifford.
“Oh, American!” He laughed a hollow laugh. “No, I’ve asked my man if he will find me a Turk or something…something nearer to the Oriental.”
Connie really wondered at this queer, melancholy specimen.

For many readers, this exchange might have slipped by unnoticed. But, as a Turkish American, I couldn’t prevent myself from registering all the slights against Turkish people that I encountered in European books. In “Heidi,” the meanest goat is called “the Great Turk.”…

…A few weeks later, I saw “An Octoroon,” Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’s refashioning of the Irish playwright Dion Boucicault’s 1859 melodrama of almost the same title (“The Octoroon”). (Jacobs-Jenkins was formerly on the staff of this magazine.) In an opening monologue, B. J. J., “a black playwright,” recounts a conversation with his therapist, about his lack of joy in theatre. When asked to name a playwright he admires, he can think of only one: Dion Boucicault. The therapist has never heard of Boucicault, or “The Octoroon.”

“What’s an octoroon?” she asks. He tells her. “Ah. And you like this play?” she says.

“Yes.”

This is the basic dramatic situation: a black playwright, in 2014, is somehow unable to move beyond a likeable 1859 work, named after a forgotten word once used to describe nonwhite people in the same terms as breeds of livestock. What do you do with your mixed feelings toward a text that treats as stage furniture the most grievous and unhealed insult in American history—especially when you belong to the insulted group?

Boucicault’s original script is set on a plantation, Terrebonne, shortly after the death of its owner, Judge Peyton. Peyton’s nephew, George, has just returned from Paris to take control of the property; he falls in love with Zoe, the judge’s illegitimate octoroon daughter, who has been raised as a member of the family. The villain M’Closkey, who has designs on both Terrebonne and Zoe, manages to have both put under the auctioneer’s hammer. The estate is eventually saved, by complex means involving an exploding steamship—but not before Zoe has poisoned herself in despair.

B. J. J., following his therapist’s advice, decides to restage “The Octoroon,” but white actors refuse to work with him: nobody wants to play slave owners. In the play within a play, B. J. J. puts on whiteface and acts both the hero George and the villain M’Closkey himself…

Read the entire article here.

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Jennifer Lisa Vest to explore ‘post-racial present’ at Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium

Posted in Articles, Arts, Gay & Lesbian, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2015-04-16 23:09Z by Steven

Jennifer Lisa Vest to explore ‘post-racial present’ at Women’s and Gender Studies Symposium

Report: Faculty/Staff Newsletter
Illinois State University
2015-04-02

Rachel Hatch, Editor

Performing artist and scholar Jennifer Lisa Vest will be the keynote speaker for the 20th annual Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) Symposium.

Vest will present Black Lives Matter: [Trans]Gender Violence, Disability, and Women in a ‘Post-racial,’ ‘Post-Sexist’ Present at 1 p.m. Friday, April 17, in the Bone Student Center. The talk is free and open to the public.

In celebration of the event, there will be a poetry reading at 7 p.m. Thursday April 16, at the University Galleries, 11 Uptown Circle, Normal.

Vest is a self-described “mixed-race queer feminist philosopher, poet, and artivist whose philopoetic works combine philosophy, poetry and feminist theories to provide intersectional analyses of social justice issues by explicating raced, gendered, and sexualized components of privilege, ablelism, and oppression.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity

Posted in Biography, Books, Europe, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Philosophy on 2015-04-16 19:29Z by Steven

Lines of Descent: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Emergence of Identity

Harvard University Press
February 2014
240 pages
4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
Hardcover ISBN: 9780674724914

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Law and Philosophy
New York University

W. E. B. Du Bois never felt so at home as when he was a student at the University of Berlin. But Du Bois was also American to his core, scarred but not crippled by the racial humiliations of his homeland. In Lines of Descent, Kwame Anthony Appiah traces the twin lineages of Du Bois’ American experience and German apprenticeship, showing how they shaped the great African-American scholar’s ideas of race and social identity.

At Harvard, Du Bois studied with such luminaries as William James and George Santayana, scholars whose contributions were largely intellectual. But arriving in Berlin in 1892, Du Bois came under the tutelage of academics who were also public men. The economist Adolf Wagner had been an advisor to Otto von Bismarck. Heinrich von Treitschke, the historian, served in the Reichstag, and the economist Gustav von Schmoller was a member of the Prussian state council. These scholars united the rigorous study of history with political activism and represented a model of real-world engagement that would strongly influence Du Bois in the years to come.

With its romantic notions of human brotherhood and self-realization, German culture held a potent allure for Du Bois. Germany, he said, was the first place white people had treated him as an equal. But the prevalence of anti-Semitism allowed Du Bois no illusions that the Kaiserreich was free of racism. His challenge, says Appiah, was to take the best of German intellectual life without its parochialism—to steal the fire without getting burned.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. The Awakening
  • 2. Culture and Cosmopolitanism
  • 3. The Concept of the Negro
  • 4. The Mystic Spell
  • 5. The One and the Many
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
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Harlem and After: African American Literature 1925-present (EAS3241)

Posted in Course Offerings, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United Kingdom, United States on 2015-04-12 01:15Z by Steven

Harlem and After: African American Literature 1925-present (EAS3241)

University of Exeter
Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom
2015-02-08

Taking as its point of departure the landmark special issue of Survey Graphic that announced the arrival on the artistic scene of the “New Negro” (1925), this module provides a historical survey of African American writing, 1925 to present. Through close readings of works by both canonical and emerging writers, it encourages students to situate these texts within their historical, social, political and literary contexts. Emphasising key literary and political movements and moments (the Harlem Renaissance; the Civil Rights Movement; Black Power; Hurricane Katrina) and recurring themes and motifs (lynching and racial violence; racial passing and mixed race subjectivity; the legacies of the Great Migration; the significance of music in African American culture; minstrelsy and the commodification of blackness), it invites students to consider the range and diversity of African American literature (poetry; short stories; essays; fiction; graphic novel) published from 1925 to today.

For more information, click here.

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