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Dark Victorians

Dark Victorians

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Dark Victorians
    Book Description:

    Dark Victorians illuminates the cross-cultural influences between white Britons and black Americans during the Victorian age. In carefully analyzing literature and travel narratives by Ida B. Wells, Harriet Martineau, Charles Dickens, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Carlyle, W. E. B. Du Bois, and others, Vanessa D. Dickerson reveals the profound political, racial, and rhetorical exchanges between the groups. Evoking moral and political debates of the Victorian age, this study investigates how African Americans and Britons perceived each another. Black America's romance with Victorian Britain and Britons' knowledge of black Americans, Dickerson argues, was largely the result of travelers who crossed the Atlantic and then shared their experiences--often by publishing them in nonfictional or fictional forms--with their compatriots. _x000B__x000B_From nineteenth-century black nationalist David Walker, who urged emigrating African Americans to turn to England, to twentieth-century writer Maya Angelou, who recalls how those she knew in her childhood aspired to Victorian ideas of conduct, black Americans have consistently embraced Victorian England. In tracing the origins of this connection, Dark Victorians considers how philanthropic and abolitionist Victorian discourses influenced black identity and racism in America and how Britons negotiated their support of African Americans with the controlling policies they used to govern a growing empire of dark-skinned peoples. _x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09098-1
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Crossing the Big Water between White Victorians and Black Americans
    (pp. 1-12)

    InThe Wind Done Gone(2001), Alice Randall’s parody of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 plantation novelGone With the Wind,the female protagonist Cynara sums up the black experience in an assertion as historical as it is poetic in its impetus. “We are a sailed people,” Cynara explains in the diary in which she proposes “to write down everything. Something like Mr. Frederick Douglass.” By identifying blacks as sailed or sold people, Randall’s character not only evokes the horrors of the middle passage (“We sailed to America. We taste the path of our abduction in our tears,” Cynara continues), but she...

  5. 1. On Coming to America: The British Subject and the African American Slave
    (pp. 13-43)

    The primary objective of most early nineteenth-century British travelers to the United States was not to take tea with the country’s slaves. However, upon their arrival, these visitors inevitably came face to face with the institution of slavery and the blacks subjected to that institution. These British encounters were ultimately colored by Britain’s own peculiar history with blacks and slavery as well as by the ties the British had to America. It is helpful to read British writings about nineteenth-century African America in the context of at least a basic understanding of this history and these ties. To do so...

  6. 2. Hail Britannia: African Americans Abroad in Victorian England
    (pp. 44-73)

    For nineteenth-century British travelers, the United States of America was a brave new world, and for African Americans, England was the land situated somewhere near the second star to the right. This perception of England and of Europe as a kind of Neverland, a cherished place to which travel was an extraordinary venture, is evident as late as 1899 when educator, race leader, and accommodationist Booker T. Washington questioned about whether he had ever considered a trip to Europe, exclaimed that “it was something entirely beyond me.” In his autobiography,Up From Slavery,Washington goes on to express his feeling...

  7. 3. Thomas Carlyle: Case Study of a Dark Victorian
    (pp. 74-94)

    The presence of African Americans abroad advanced neither their emancipatory missions nor their human status in the hearts and minds of some British Victorians. Preeminent among those Victorians who proved unsympathetic to the condition and plight of blacks in England or the Americas was social and moral critic and prophet Thomas Carlyle, who critic Logan Pearsall Smith dubbed “the Rembrandt of English Prose.” Over the course of his career, Carlyle was compelled, no doubt, by the force of such events as the emancipation of West Indian blacks in 1833, the American Civil War, the Jamaican Rebellion, and the Governor Eyre...

  8. 4. W. E. B. Du Bois and the Victorian Soul of Black Folk
    (pp. 95-126)

    If Thomas Carlyle may be aptly described as one of Britain’s preeminent dark Victorians, then African American historian, sociologist, editor, and race man William Edward Burghardt Du Bois may fairly be characterized as one of America’s consummate black Victorians. Nineteenth-century England and Europe were powerful points of social and cultural reference for W. E. B. Du Bois who took as one of his role models for his early thoughts Thomas Carlyle. Du Bois, who was exposed to Carlyle’s work as an undergraduate at Fisk University, would become, like the stern Victorian, a respected and influential prophet for his age. Interestingly...

  9. Conclusion: Reconsidering Victorian Britain and African America
    (pp. 127-136)

    In the nineteenth century, neither Britain’s soil nor its soul was as hardened by slavery as America’s was, or at least not hardened in the same ways. Victorian England radiated a morality, a confidence, a commitment to reform and to social responsibility that a number of African Americans found appealing and inspiring. From England to Ireland, from the highest ranking noble to the lowliest worker, the British comprised a people to be courted, respected, even emulated because the British were a people whom early nineteenth-century African Americans perceived to be open. This is to say that when it came to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 137-142)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 143-154)
  12. Index
    (pp. 155-164)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-166)