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We Wear the Mask African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870

by Rafia Zafar

  • ISBN: 9780231080958
  • ISBN10: 0231080956

We Wear the Mask African Americans Write American Literature, 1760-1870

by Rafia Zafar

  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Columbia Univ Pr
  • Publish date: 11/01/1997
  • ISBN: 9780231080958
  • ISBN10: 0231080956
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Description: From America's revolutionary period to the Civil War and Reconstruction, African Americans contributed important works to the country's blossoming literary canon. Writing in popular genres and in the vernacular of white literature, their work was intended for an integrated audience, and represented a desire to bridge the racial divide. These writers and their ultimate failure to "write themselves into acceptance" are the focus of We Wear the Mask.

Rafia Zafar uncovers the strategies black writers used to create an African American identity and to make their visions and stories accessible to a white audience. Beginning with Phyllis Wheatley and John Marrant, who created popular literature by using formulas like that of the Puritan narrative, and ending with the subversive work of Harriet Jacobs and the anonymous tale of Mary Lincoln's maid, Zafar argues that black writers quickly changed course in reaction to and against a backdrop of social resistance and cultural antipathy. Black authors, she demonstrates, tried every literary strategy -- from mimicry and masking to invisibility -- as a means of promoting empathy and as a way of transcending the attitudes of mainstream America. By the end of the Reconstruction, black authors had appropriated every popular genre, and in doing so, paved the way for a distinctive African American literature -- one that had its own voice, mission, and audience.

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