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Black Masculinity and the U.S. South

Black Masculinity and the U.S. South: From Uncle Tom to Gangsta

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Black Masculinity and the U.S. South
    Book Description:

    This pathbreaking study of region, race, and gender reveals how we underestimate the South's influence on the formation of black masculinity at the national level. Many negative stereotypes of black men-often contradictory ones-have emerged from the ongoing historical traumas initiated by slavery. Are black men emasculated and submissive or hypersexed and violent? Nostalgic representations of black men have arisen as well: think of the philosophical, hardworking sharecropper or the abiding, upright preacher. To complicate matters, says Riché Richardson, blacks themselves appropriate these images for purposes never intended by their (mostly) white progenitors. Starting with such well-known caricatures as the Uncle Tom and the black rapist, Richardson investigates a range of pathologies of black masculinity that derive ideological force from their associations with the South. Military policy, black-liberation discourse, and contemporary rap, she argues, are just some of the instruments by which egregious pathologies of black masculinity in southern history have been sustained. Richardson's sources are eclectic and provocative, including Ralph Ellison's fiction, Charles Fuller's plays, Spike Lee's films, Huey Newton's and Malcolm X's political rhetoric, the O. J. Simpson discourse, and the music production of Master P, the Cash Money Millionaires, and other Dirty South rappers. Filled with new insights into the region's role in producing hierarchies of race and gender in and beyond their African American contexts, this new study points the way toward more epistemological frameworks for southern literature, southern studies, and gender studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-3667-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    (pp. 1-22)

    Sutton Griggs’s first novel, Imperium in Imperio: A Study of the Negro Race Problem (1899), grapples with the contradictory models of leadership offered by the self-serving Bernard Belgrade and the progressive Belton Piedmont. In examining their conflicting strategies of racial uplift and the question of who is the better and truer “race man,” the novel also points to distinctions and hierarchies that exist among African Americans on the basis of geography through a curious man simply referred to as “the Mississippian.” Griggs’s narrator informs us that

    There was a student in Stowe University who was noted for his immense height...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Lessons from Thomas Dixon to The Klansman
    (pp. 23-72)

    No African American author writing in the post-Reconstruction era—beyond the obvious example of W. E. B. Du Bois—examined the issue of race and the status of blacks in the United States with an emphasis on the South more assertively, persistently, and prolifically than Charles Chesnutt. The founding of numerous historically black colleges; the rise of the black church as an institution; the election of black officials in proportions that even to this day remain unmatched in the nation’s political arena; and substantial increases in rates of marriage, literacy, and property ownership, including businesses, were among the capstone achievements...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Charles Fuller’s Southern Specter
    (pp. 73-117)

    William Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay (1926), provides a visionary treatment of race, region, masculinity, and the military as well as intricate and detailed portraits of the soldier, which make it a compelling counterpoint for a reading of Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play (1981). I want to draw on it to help my critical effort of bringing into relief ideologies of black southern masculinity generated in the military in the first decades of the twentieth century. In their institutionalization and nationalization in the military, I contend, such ideologies extended and recast the pathological portraits of black masculinity in the South...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Ralph Ellison’s Rural Geography
    (pp. 118-156)

    Geography is the most prominent structuring device in Nella Larsen’s 1928 novella Quicksand, in which experiences on a journey across a range of settings, including two sojourns in the South, are all pivotal and fateful in the development of the tragic mulatta protagonist, Helga Crane. Larsen’s emphasis on the rural South as a context for Helga’s decline evokes the region’s history of antipathy for racial intermixture and reveals geography’s organic impact in developing the trope of the tragic mulatto in African American literary history. Helga’s impulsive marriage to the bombastic Reverend Mr. Pleasant Green takes her to a figurative hell...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Spike Lee’s Uncle Toms and Urban Revolutionaries
    (pp. 157-196)

    Bruce Perry’s 1992 biography of Malcolm X was controversial due to a variety of claims, with the most provocative of them being that the young Malcolm engaged in same-sex relations with a white boy as a teenager—and later on as an unemployed young adult in New York—to earn income and to decrease his dependence on women for money.¹ In a sense, Perry’s biography recasts the sensationalism of Malcolm X’s autobiography with little difference. That is to say, Perry’s portrait in the biography lies on a continuum with the descriptors of Malcolm X as a former “hoodlum,” “thief,” “dope...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Gangstas and Playas in the Dirty South
    (pp. 197-228)

    Something strange has happened in the rap industry in recent years, given the profusion of artists ostensibly marketing themselves as southern or identifying with “the dirty South.” Such artists have gained increasing popularity in the hip-hop arena nationally and, in some cases, globally. This seems strange because when rap emerged in the mid-1970s, the East Coast was its undisputed epicenter of production. From the late 1980s into the early 1990s, the West Coast, which was then primarily known for gangsta rap, also became a force to be reckoned with in the rap industry. The idea of the South as a...

    (pp. 229-238)

    When twenty-one-year-old Tiger Woods became the youngest Masters Tournament champion in history in Augusta, Georgia, in 1997, breaking the scoring record that had been in place for thirty-two years, golfing veteran Fuzzy Zoeller set off a firestorm of controversy when he made the following comments in a CNN interview: “That little boy [Woods] is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys [former champions] do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 239-264)
    (pp. 265-284)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 285-296)