Searching for the New Black Man

Searching for the New Black Man: Black Masculinity and Women's Bodies

Ronda C. Henry Anthony
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Searching for the New Black Man
    Book Description:

    Using the slave narratives of Henry Bibb and Frederick Douglass, as well as the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Walter Mosley, and Barack Obama, Ronda C. Henry Anthony examines how women's bodies are used in African American literature to fund the production of black masculine ideality and power. In tracing representations of ideal black masculinities and femininities, Henry Anthony shows how black men's struggles for gendered agency are inextricably bound up with their complicated relation to white men and normative masculinity. The historical context in which Henry Anthony couches these struggles highlights the extent to which shifting socioeconomic circumstances dictate the ideological, cultural, and emotional terms upon which black men conceptualize identity.

    Yet, Henry Anthony quickly moves to texts that challenge traditional constructions of black masculinity. In these texts Henry Anthony traces how the emergence of collaboratively-gendered discourses, or a blending of black female/male feminist consciousnesses, are reshaping black masculinities, femininities, and intraracial relations for a new century.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-925-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction Searching for the “New Black Man”? From Masculine Ideality to Progressive Black Masculinities
    (pp. 3-20)

    I WAS FIRST INTRODUCED TO RICHARD WRIGHT’SNATIVE SONIN AN UNDERGRADUATE African American literature course. My professor explained that in 1940, the yearNative Sonwas published, Wright’s novel was considered revolutionary. He asserted that the novel’s greatness resided in several areas: its constructions of black masculinity; its use of naturalism and the sociological insights of Robert Park and the Chicago School; its establishment of the boundaries of protest fiction; and its overall objective to show how Bigger’s humanity was diminished by his impoverished and oppressive environment. While I appreciated the novel’s historical and political significance to American literature,...

  5. Chapter One Dominant versus Subordinate Masculinities and the Gendered Oppositions between Slavery and Freedom
    (pp. 21-53)

    AS I BEGIN MY STUDY WITH “A REPRESENTATIVE HISTORICAL EPISODE THAT HELPS render black masculinity evolutionary, frame by frame” (Wallace 9), there can be no more representative literary historical episode than the period during which the influence of slave narratives reached its zenith. Within the literary productions of black men during the nineteenth century, one man’s text stands as a beacon of ideal black manhood, Frederick Douglass’sNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. Douglass’s narrative is a touchstone for the establishment and consolidation of black masculine ideality within the slave narrative genre, serving...

  6. Chapter Two Unsexing the Black Girl to Get to the Indian Princess The Production of Talented-Tenth Black Masculine Power and the Cleansing and Transcending of Black (Wo)Manhood in W. E. B. Du Bois
    (pp. 54-98)

    W. E. B. DU BOIS’S WORK, ROUGHLY FROM THE END OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY TO 1930, largely set the terms for conceptualizations of black masculine ideality in twentieth-century African American literature. Within this chapter’s primary texts—The Souls of Black Folk(1903),The Quest of the Silver Fleece(1911),Darkwater(1920), andDark Princess(1928)—Du Bois reaches back to embrace the conventions of ideal black manhood passed on to him by such men as Martin Delany, Alexander Crummell, and Frederick Douglass to remythologize them for a new century. Based on what Du Bois believes are the needs of both...

  7. Chapter Three “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” James Baldwin, Cross-Racial/Sexual Bond(age)ing, and the Cult of Hegemonic Black Masculinity
    (pp. 99-126)

    ACCORDING TO RICHARD WRIGHT’SNATIVE SON(1940) AND “HOW BIGGER WAS BORN,” the black masculine must always (and at all costs) be coded as powerful and, by implication, the feminized coded as weak and dangerous in its threat to the stability of the expression of power within the terms of ideal masculinity. This binary structure makes it necessary inNative Sonfor all feminized bodies and forces to be eschewed or to exist outside of the representative masculinized body. To embody feminized qualities—whether those be the sentimentalized style ofUncle Tom’s Children(1937), the tears of “banker’s daughters,” or...

  8. Chapter Four Breakin’ the Rules Socrates Fortlow, Ethics, and Walter Mosley’s Constructions of Progressive Black Masculinities
    (pp. 127-150)

    IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CHARLOTTE WATSON SHERMAN, WALTER MOSLEY ARTICULATES his vision of Socrates Fortlow, the main character ofAlways Outnumbered, Always Outgunned(1998) andWalkin’ the Dog(1999):

    I’m writing a new series of stories, “The Socrates Stories,” to do a few things. I’m using Socrates, my character, to address the racial problems the community faces, to deal directly with the double nature of everyday life, where you have a system of laws and rules and morals and ethics and a concept of right and wrong that is basically a template laid on all of society. But in Socrates’...

  9. Chapter Five Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, the Economies of Respectable Black Manhood and Leadership, and the Politics of Collaboratively Gendered Black Male Feminist Autobiography
    (pp. 151-178)

    INTHE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK(1903), W. E. B. DU BOIS ESTABLISHES THE TERMS OF respectable black manhood and leadership for the new century. Using previous determinations of ideal masculinity constructed by men like Martin Delany, Alexander Crummell, and Frederick Douglass, Du Bois consolidates his figurations of talented-tenth masculinity to empower black men and uplift the folk masses. Throughout the twentieth century, subsequent determinations of black manhood and identity had to contend with the terms of Du Boisian manhood and leadership— whether through reiteration, interrogation, or challenge. In this chapter, I argue that Barack Obama’sDreams from My Father...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 179-183)
    (pp. 184-188)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 189-192)