Criticism and the Color Line: Desegregating American Literary Studies

By Henry B. Wonham | Go to book overview

like Hopkins used a fuzzy race background to move society's judgmental lens from skin color to individual accomplishment.36

Cooper also used light-skin heroines in her work, such as the "cream-colored applicant" in "Woman vs. The Indian," who was denied a place in Wimodaughsis (82). Like the novelists Tate writes about, Cooper isn't lifting the mulatto above those with darker skins. In extolling women's abilities to reform in "The Status of Women in America," she talks about their fierce loyalty: "You do not find the colored woman selling her birthright for a mess of pottage" (139). But the mulatta becomes a weapon to show that skin color is an "accident, not the substance of life" (125). Cooper mocks the whole notion of blood lines in "Woman vs. The Indian." "If your own father was a pirate, a robber, a murderer, his hands are dyed in red blood, and you don't say very much about it. But if your great great great grandfather's grandfather stole and pillaged and slew, and you can prove it, your blood has become blue and you are at great pains to establish the relationship" (103). Blood stands for little in the work that Cooper imagines for humankind, but she also questions whether it means anything by itself. The slave owner, for example, has created false divisions based on blood. "He sowed his blood broadcast among them, then pitted mulatto against black, bond against free, house slave against plantation slave, even the slave of one clan against like slave of another clan" (102). Cooper makes race a social distinction rather than a biological one. "Purity" rests in the mind.

It was a quality of mind that Cooper sought to create in her audience. Artists "have wrought into their products, lovingly and impartially and reverently, every type, every tint, every tone that they felt or saw or heard" (176), she says in one Voice essay, and they integrate these colors into their work. The artist controls the ultimate meaning of the piece. "For each of us truth means merely the representation of the sensations and experiences of our personal environment, colored and vivified, fused into consistency and crystallized into individuality in the crucible of our own feelings and imaginations" (176-177).

And this is what Anna Julia Cooper has done in A Voice from the South. She has used the rhetorical skills of the educated white man to package her own social criticism, a critique that fused the types, the tints and the tones of the world into a consistent whole. And in a close reading of how she crafts these new definitions, we see that she may be standing on the inside, as she did at the World's Columbian Exposition, but, from the insider's place, Anna Cooper has crafted a new world order.


Notes

I owe thanks to Karen Hust and Shelley Fisher Fishkin for their helpful comments and gracious support.

1.
Anna Julia Cooper, speech at the World's Columbian Exposition, quoted in Jeanne Madeline Weimann , The Fair Women ( Chicago: Academy Chicago, 1981), 123, and Ida B. Wells , Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells, Alfreda M. Duster, ed. ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970), 117.

-168-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Criticism and the Color Line: Desegregating American Literary Studies
Table of contents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 300

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.