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The Fugitive Race

The Fugitive Race: Minority Writers Resisting Whiteness

Stephen P. Knadler
Copyright Date: 2002
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    The Fugitive Race
    Book Description:

    Denying its formative dialogues with minorities, the white race, Stephen P. Knadler contends, has been a fugitive race. While the "white question," like the "Negro question," and the "woman question" a century earlier, has garnered considerable critical attention among scholars looking to find new anti-race strategies, these investigations need to highlight not just the exclusion of people of color, but also examine minority writers' resistance to and disruption of this privileged racial category.

    "Highly original, wonderfully detailed, and thought provoking," says Professor Candace Waid of Knadler's intellectually challenging book.

    Although excluded, people of color looked back in anger, laughter, and wisdom to challenge the unexamined lie of a self-evident whiteness. Looking at fictional and nonfictional texts written between 1850 and 1984,The Fugitive Racetraces a long cultural and literary history of the ways African Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, Chicanos, gays, and lesbians have challenged the shape and meaning of so-called white identities.

    From the antebellum period to the 1980s, the belief in a white racial superiority, or simply a white difference, has denied that people of color might and do have an influence on the supposedly pure or protected character of whiteness. In contrast, this book attempts to define a new way of analyzing minority literature that questions this segregated color line. In addition to creating a new racial awareness, many writers of color tried to interfere in the historical formulation of whiteness. They created unsettling moments when white readers had to see themselves for the first time from the outside-in, or from the critical perspective of non-white writers. These writers--including William Wells Brown, Pauline Hopkins, Abraham Cahan, Young-hill Kang, Zora Neale Hurston, and Arturo Islas--did not simply resist assimilation. They sought to dismantle the white identities that lay as the foundation of the master's house.

    Stephen P. Knadler, an assistant professor of English at Spelman College, has been published inAmerican Literature,American Literary History,American Quarterly,Minnesota Review, andModern Fiction Studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-040-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION: ʺFugitive Raceʺ Culture
    (pp. vii-2)

    In 1853 Frederick Douglass published a fictional account of Madison Washingtonʹs 1841 slave mutiny in his novella, ʺA Heroic Slave.ʺ While this use of fiction to respond to the fugitive slave crisis signaled Douglassʹs increasing belief in the legitimacy of violent protest as opposed to Garrisonian tactics of moral suasion to end slavery, Douglassʹs ʺheroic slaveʺ is, as William Andrews notes, a ʺliberator through languageʺ (Introduction 131).¹ But just what is the power of this fugitive slave, especially since this text that celebrates the ʺblack voiceʺ relates the rebellion aboard theCreoleonly secondhand through the embedded narration of a...

  4. 1. NARRATIVE INTERRUPTIONS OF PANIC Reverse Acculturation in the Early African American Fiction of William Wells Brown and Harriet Wilson
    (pp. 3-30)

    What would it mean for an early African American writer to be ʺimpudentʺ? In Harriet Wilsonʹs 1859 novel,Our Nig, the title character, Frado, is scolded by her cruel mistress for her ʺimpudence,ʺ and on several occasions Mrs. Bellmont threatens in response to ʺcut her tongue outʺ (72), thus forever silencing the black womanʹs ability to talk back to white authority. But through these scenes of seemingly self-evident racist cruelty and muted resistance, Wilson enacts a particular kind of ʺimpudence,ʺ an affective racial intervention expressed in narrative eruptions of a white panic about what could be called ʺreverse acculturation.ʺ In...

  5. 2. MISCEGENATED WHITENESS Rebecca Harding Davis, the ʺCivil-izing War,ʺ and ʺFemale Racismʺ
    (pp. 31-58)

    In Rebecca Harding Davisʹs 1868 Civil War novelWaiting for the Verdict, the heroine, Rosalyn (Ross) Burley, tells her aristocratic Southern suitor, Garrick Randolph, that ʺI not only belonged by birth to the class which you place on par with your slaves, but I worked with them. I was one of them. I believe in my soul I am one of them nowʺ (230). By having Ross Burley identify with the slaves, or claim to be ʺone of them,ʺ Davis names her protagonistʹs outcast status as a poor working-class heroine of illegitimate birth. But Rosalynʹs statement that she is in...

  6. 3. “CORPOREAL SUSPICION” The Missing Crimes of Neoabolitionist Rape Culture in Pauline Hopkinsʹs Detective Histories
    (pp. 59-84)

    In the climactic scene ofHagarʹs Daughter, Pauline Hopkinsʹs serialized novel for theColored American Magazine(1901–2), the former slave Aunt Henny testifies in court that General Benson of the U.S. Treasury Department is really an imposter. Although he may appear ʺcivilized,ʺ she informs the court, he is really the cruel slave master St. Clair Ellis whom she nursed and raised and who has now, twenty years later, killed his secretary and mistress, Miss Bradford: ʺHe ainʹt Ginʹral Benson no moreʹn Iʹm a white ʹooman…. Ise got a scar on me jedge, where dat imp ob de debbil hit...

  7. 4. UNACQUIRING NEGROPHOBIA Younghill Kang and the Cosmopolitan Resistance to the White Logic of Naturalization
    (pp. 85-111)

    Amid his picaresque wanderings across 1920s America, the Korean immigrant narrator of Younghill Kangʹs novelEast Goes West: The Making of an Oriental Yankee(1937) encounters in Boston an African American student, Wagstaff, who works as a ‬ʺyes-suhʺ elevator man while putting himself through college. This black Falstaffian wag counsels the exiled Shakespearean scholar Chungpa Han to ʺlearn the language of gyp, learn to gyp to. Confess honestly that right is not might, but might is right, always since the world began. Thatʹs the perspective that only a Negro getsʺ (274). Throughout his recollections of life as one of the...

  8. 5. Dis-integrating Third Spaces The Unrepresented in Abraham Cahanʹs and Mary Antinʹs Narratives of Americanization
    (pp. 112-143)

    In his famous 1928 study ofThe Ghetto, the German-born sociologist Louis Wirth declared the Jewish enclave in America not so much a ʺphysical fact as … a state of mindʺ (287). As a caseworker with Jewish charities in urban Chicago while writing his dissertation, Wirth had been frustrated with these other Jewish immigrantsʹ failure to assimilate, and he chastised this insular group consciousness, even as he tried to understand their clash of values. While Wirth traces the persistence of ethnic traditionalism to a long history of isolation, both forced by legal persecutions and personal and religious needs for security,...

  9. 6. WHITE DISSOLUTION Homosexualization and Racial Masculinity in White Life Novels
    (pp. 144-175)

    In April 1954 the John H. Johnson–ownedJetmagazine raised the titillating question in its cover story, ʺAre Homosexuals Becoming Respectable?ʺ With the recent arrest of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin along with growing rumors about ʺfamous faculty at southern Negro colleges,ʺ the black popular press seemed to share the countryʹs fear of the homosexual menace. As John DʹEmilio has argued, the post–World War II witch hunt against lesbians and gay males worked to position same-sex desires outside the formation of a stable national identity during the Truman and Eisenhower eras (see also Chauncey 9–10). The postwar...

    (pp. 176-202)

    The sacred landscape oflas playas, los llanos, y las montanasof Aztlan have been central to the cultural nationalism of the Chicano movement, but inThe Rain God, Arturo Islas indicates that this romanticized recollection of the lost homeland of the occupied U.S. Southwest has been a complicit figuration in the forging of the compulsory heterosexuality of the Chicano identity (Yarbro-Bejarano 17). To articulate a new conception of Chicano identity, Islas in his first novel thus embraces the geographical trope of Teotihuacan, the pre-Columbian city dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc. In the opening chapter, ʺJudgment Day,ʺ Islasʹs novel...

  11. CODA: Anti-Racist Apartheid
    (pp. 203-208)

    In theNew York Timesʹscoverage of the Whiteness Studies movement, November 30, 1997, ʺGetting Credit for Being White,ʺ Michael Eric Dyson expressed the uneasiness and distrust among some African Americans that such an anti-racist politics might re-privilege whiteness by making it the center of attention: ʺThereʹs a suspicion among African Americans that whiteness studies is a sneaky form of narcissism. At the very moment when African-American studies and Asian-American studies and so on are really coming into their own, you have whiteness studies shifting the focus and maybe the resources back to white people and their perspectiveʺ (qtd. in...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 209-220)
    (pp. 221-238)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 239-249)