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Shadowing the White Mans Burden

Shadowing the White Mans Burden: U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line

Gretchen Murphy
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Shadowing the White Mans Burden
    Book Description:

    During the height of 19th century imperialism, Rudyard Kipling published his famous poem The White Man's Burden. While some of his American readers argued that the poem served as justification for imperialist practices, others saw Kipling's satirical talents at work and read it as condemnation. Gretchen Murphy explores this tension embedded in the notion of the white man's burden to create a new historical frame for understanding race and literature in America.Shadowing the White Man's Burden maintains that literature symptomized and channeled anxiety about the racial components of the U.S. world mission, while also providing a potentially powerful medium for multiethnic authors interested in redrawing global color lines. Through a range of archival materials from literary reviews to diplomatic records to ethnological treatises, Murphy identifies a common theme in the writings of African-, Asian- and Native-American authors who exploited anxiety about race and national identity through narratives about a multiracial U.S. empire. Shadowing the White Man's Burden situates American literature in the context of broader race relations, and provides a compelling analysis of the way in which literature came to define and shape racial attitudes for the next century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-5959-2
    Subjects: 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-viii)
  4. Introduction: Writing Race on the World’s Stage
    (pp. 1-22)

    In a 1901 essay for the Overland Monthly titled “Red, Black and Yellow,” John T. Bramhall noted a timely coincidence marking the 1899 publication of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden.” Originally subtitled “The United States and the Philippines” and published in a popular U.S. magazine, Kipling’s poem urged Americans to take up the burden of joining Europe in what the poem represents as the thankless task of colonial administration. But for Bramhall, the poem spoke to more than just the question of overseas expansion; it was also a statement about U.S. race relations. Bramhall rhetorically asks, “When Rudyard...

  5. PART I: Reading Kipling in America

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 23-28)

      In the joke above, Kipling’s poem has overstepped its bounds when it enters the Senate halls, but as I demonstrate in this section, the poem was indeed “worked about” in Congress and throughout the culture at large. On the reception of “The White Man’s Burden” in the United States, little has been written that goes beyond general assertions about its influence on U.S imperialism.¹ This is an oversight of what was seen at the time as the era’s most important literary incursion into the realm of international politics. After its initial U.S. publication in the February 1899 issue ofMcClure’s...

    • 1 The Burden of Whiteness
      (pp. 29-57)

      This particular question is one that literary critics today seldom puzzle over—when Kipling scholars write about this poem, they generally treat it as one of Kipling’s simpler works, important as a reference point for comparison with the author’s other works but not complex enough to merit its own analysis.² In short, literary critics seem inclined to agree with the interpretation given by Chappy, who answers T. F. H.’s question with a quick gloss of some of Kipling’s lines and concludes with some chiding condescension: “It is clearly an ‘expansion poem,’” which “seems to me to be quite clearly the...

    • 2 The White Man’s Burden or the Leopard’s Spots? Dixon’s Political Conundrum
      (pp. 58-76)

      Thomas Dixon’s first novel,The Leopard’s Spots: A Romance of the White Man’s Burden—1865–1900,surprised publishers by becoming an instant success. Published late in 1901, it toppedBookman’s monthly bestseller lists for over a year, leading to a rapid depletion of its first printing of fifteen thousand copies.¹ Reprinted every year for the next half decade, Dixon’s first novel was followed by two more top-selling sequels. In its day,The Leopard’s Spotswas thus one of the most widely read responses to Kipling’s poem in the United States. A current approach to interpreting Dixon’s novel is to look...

  6. PART II: The Black Cosmopolite

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 77-86)

      In William Huntington Wilson’s short story “The Return of the Sergeant” (1900), inhabitants of the South Carolina village Possum Hollow inflate with pride only to be crushed by disappointment. Their downfall is rendered comic with minstrel-style humor: Possum Hollow’s solely African American inhabitants glory in one of their young men returning wounded from military service in Cuba, then learn that they are being deceived. It turns out that “de Sargent” has not been to Cuba at all but invented the story after stealing a white officer’s uniform at a Charleston hotel where he worked as a bellboy. Stock characters like...

    • 3 The Plain Citizen of Black Orientalism: Frank R. Steward’s Filipino American War Fiction
      (pp. 87-120)

      In 1903, theColored American Magazine(CAM) featured a story about Micaela Flores of Manila, a Filipina who had recently taken second place in the “Popular School Teacher Contest” conducted by her city’s newspaper. The brief profile tells Flores’s story as an example of Filipino nationalism under the U.S. occupation. By winning second place, the article explains, Flores ranked ahead of many U.S. candidates and behind only the U.S. “military contingent’s candidate.” The piece ends by noting that, despite Flores’s employment by the colonial government, “the young lady’s motto, apparently, is “Peace, good will to all, but the Philippines and...

    • 4 Pauline Hopkins’s “International Policy”: Cosmopolitan Perspective at the Colored American Magazine
      (pp. 121-146)

      When Reuel Briggs, the protagonist of Pauline Hopkins’s serially published novelOf One Blood, Or, The Hidden Self(1902– 3), catches his first glimpse of Africa, the coast of Tripoli appears as a “low lying spectral band of shore,” its “nudity” covered only by the “fallow mantle of the desert.” Ghostly and naked, the land evokes in Reuel a feeling of sadness and, because of the assumed “intimate relation” between a land and its people, an expectation of difference:“Reuel realized vividly that the race who dwelt here must be different from those of the rest of the world.”¹ As...

  7. PART III: Pacific Expansion and Transnational Fictions of Race

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 147-158)

      On Friday, September 29, 1899, Admiral George Dewey’s flagship the U.S.S.Olympiasteamed into New York harbor in a grand naval procession. He and his crew were returning to the United States for the first time since they defeated the Spanish Pacific squadron a year and half earlier, a resounding victory that won the port of Manila and made Dewey a national hero. Throughout New York City, preparations were being made for the celebration’s main event: a parade of more than thirty-five thousand men down Fifth Avenue to the recently constructed “Dewey Arch,” a majestic wood and plaster structure for...

    • 5 How the Irish Became Japanese: Winnifred Eaton’s Transnational Racial Reconstructions
      (pp. 159-186)

      In Winnifred Eaton’s 1906 novelA Japanese Blossom,war becomes a crucial testing ground for racial differences and similarities. The novel tells the story of Kiyo Kurakawa, a Japanese widower who returns to Japan from the United States with his new wife, Mrs. Ellen Kurakawa, an Anglo-American widow. Together with her two children, she experiences the challenges and novelties of moving to Japan and gaining a new family, for the widower already has children of his own. The dramatic conflict that finally unites the Japanese and American sides of the family results from the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5)...

    • 6 American Indians, Asiatics, and Anglo-Saxons: Ranald MacDonald’s Japan Story of Adventure
      (pp. 187-222)

      In 1847, a twenty-four-year-old half-Chinook Indian, half-Scot named Ranald MacDonald signed onto the crew of thePlymouth,a whaling ship out of New York. He was about to act on a plan that had been forming in his mind since he left his apprenticeship at a bank in Ontario three years earlier. His plan was this: when the ship was full and ready to return home, the captain would give MacDonald a small boat and strand him off the coast of Japan, a land that was then strictly closed to most of the outside world. The captain reluctantly agreed to...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 223-228)

    I began thinking about this book after an experience I had engaging freshmen writers in a discussion about historical perspective. I had shown my class a segment from theSchoolhouse Rock!educational series titled “Elbow Room,” an animated musical short that narrates American westward expansion as a result of the naturalized need for space.¹ I especially wanted the students to note how the video’s date of production, the early 1970s, influenced its particular interpretation of manifest destiny: the video ends with the suggestion that when future Americans need more “elbow room,” they will secure it for themselves on the moon....

  9. Notes
    (pp. 229-268)
  10. Index
    (pp. 269-279)
  11. About the Author
    (pp. 280-280)