Exorcising Blackness: Historical and Literary Lynching and Burning Rituals

Synopsis

By lynching, burning, castrating, raping, and mutilating black people, contends Trudier Harris, white Americans were perfomring a rite of exorcism designed to eradicate the "black beast" from their midst, or, at the very least, to render him powerless and emasculated. Black writers have graphically portrayed such tragic incidents in their writings. In doing so, they seem to be acting out a communal role -- a perpetuation of an oral tradition bent on the survival of the race.

Exorcising Blackness demonstrates that the closeness and intensity of black people's historical experiences sometimes overshadows, frequently infuses and enhances, and definitely makes richer in texture the art of black writers. By reviewing the historical and literary interconnections of the rituals of exorcism, Harris opens up the hidden psyche -- the soul -- of black American writers.