The Daughter's Return: African-American and Caribbean Women's Fictions of History

By Caroline Rody | Go to book overview

3
Further Adventures of the
Magic Black Daughter

ONE DARK BODY

Charlotte Watson Sherman's novel One Dark Body (1993), a black motherdaughter romance that endorses spiritual and psychological return to ancestry, makes fresh use of W. E. B. Du Bois's well-known lines on “double consciousness, ” which it quotes as epigraph:

One ever feels his twoness, —an American, a negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body … (qtd. in Sherman xiii)

While Du Bois speaks of one individual male body whose “twoness” is a matter of his unreconciled Negro and American identities, “one dark body” in Sherman's usage becomes a metaphor for racial unity in the specific form of black mother-daughter reunion. The novel ends:

“I'm glad you come back, mama, ” I say, and start to hum like her mama hummed, and then she start, and we hum till we turn into one dark body inside the holy sounds. (209)

Sherman's adaptation of the Du Boisian trope recapitulates a significant shift made by renaissance women's writing: away from black male writers' focus on interracial conflict and toward a focus on the black family, especially mother-daughter relationships and maternal history. In so doing, Sherman gives us a metaphor for the intensely intimate reunion of black mothers and daughters envisioned in renaissance historical fictions.

Having discussed in Chapter 2 the recovery of the black mother-ofhistory and the magical powers of her time-traveling black daughter, I turn in Chapter 3 to significant variations on the romance of these two archetypes. The first section of the chapter will consider a variety of figures who

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