The Souls of White Folk: African American Writers Theorize
Whiteness is the first study to consider the substantial body
of African American writing that critiques whiteness as social
construction and racial identity. Arguing against the prevailing
approach to these texts that says African American writers
retreated from issues of "race" when they wrote about whiteness,
Veronica T. Watson instead identifies this body of literature as an
African American intellectual and literary tradition that she names
"the literature of white estrangement."
In chapters that theorize white double consciousness (W. E. B.
Du Bois and Charles Chesnutt), white womanhood and class identity
(Zora Neale Hurston and Frank Yerby), and the socio-spatial
subjectivity of southern whites during the civil rights era (Melba
Patillo Beals), Watson explores the historically situated theories
and analyses of whiteness provided by the literature of white
estrangement from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth
centuries. She argues that these texts are best understood as part
of a multipronged approach by African American writers to challenge
and dismantle white supremacy in the United States and demonstrates
that these texts have an important place in the growing field of
critical whiteness studies.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology
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