Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the
Afro-American Woman Novelist ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 6-7.
St. Clair Drake, "Hide My Face? On Pan-Africanism and Negrirude," in Soon, One Morning. New Writing by American Negroes
Herbert Hill ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), p. 99.
3. Michele Wallace, "Modernism, Postmodernism and the Problem
of the Visual in Afro-American Culture," in Out There: Marginalization
and Contemporary Cultures,
Trinh T. Minhha
Cornel West ( New York: The New Museum of Contemporary Art; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), p. 46.
I use the neologism "Afro-U.S.," interchangeably with the more
problematic (because it concedes to the pernicious, if pervasive, taxonomies of race) term U.S. black, in an effort to avoid the cultural imperialism involved in terminology that implies that the African-derived
population of the U.S. is the only group of people of African descent in the
Americas. A dislike for monotonous diction, however, sometimes leads
me to revert to this troublesome use of the term "African American."
My use of the term "significant" here is a kind of shorthand for a distinction that can be made between works about which we no longer
know, in part because they either were not exhibited at prominent sites or
were not regarded as artistically noteworthy in their day, and works that
gained sufficient attention in their time to enter the historical record.
Stuart Hall, "The West and the Rest of Us," in Formations of
Stuart Hall and
Brain Gieben ( Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992), pp. 317-18.
For examples of recent art historical investigations of the colonial/
modernist nexus, see Abigail Solomon Godeau "Going Native: Paul
Gauguin and the Invention of Primitivist Modernism", Art in America,
vol. 77, no. 7 ( July 1989): 118-129, 161. See also Patricia Leighten "The White Peril and L'Art négre: Picasso, Primitivism, and Anticolonialism", An Bulletin, vol. 72, no. 4 ( December 1990): 609-30.
Roland Oliver and
J. D. Fage, A Short History of Africa ( New York: Penguin Books, 1990), pp. 115-24.
Charles J. Montgomery, "Survivors from the Cargo of the Slave
Yacht Wanderer", American Anthropologist, vol. 10 ( 1908): 611-23;
St. Clair Drake, The Redemption of Africa and Black Religion ( Chicago: Third World Press; Atlanta: Institute of the Black World, 1970),
See Paul Gilroy The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness ( Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 59-60, for
an illuminating analysis of the ideological implications of Douglass'
defense of African humanity and denunciation of the modern erasure
of African history in an ethnological lecture he delivered in various
venues from 1854 on.
For a brief discussion of James P. Ball's celebration of African history and culture in his 1855 abolitionist panorama, see my "The Challenges of the 19th Century: Two Recent Landmark Publications on
African American Production", The International Review of African
American An, vol. 12, no. 1 ( 1995): 57-58.
Kevin Gaines, "Uplift Ideology as Civilizing Mission: Pauline E.
Hopkins on Race and Imperialism", in Cultures of United States Imperialism, ed.
Amy Kaplan and
Donald E. Pease ( Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 1993), pp. 435-36.
Karen Sanchez-Eppler, "Bodily Bonds: The Intersecting Rhetorics
of Feminism and Abolition", Representations, no. 24 ( Fall 1988): 9.
Joy S. Kasson, Marble Queens and Captives: Women in NineteenthCentury American Sculpture ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990),
p. 3. For a discussion of the economic basis of this shift and the specifically bourgeois character of the cult of true womanhood that emerged
as a result, see Ronald T. Takaki, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19thCentury America ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), pp. 139-40. For an
especially trenchant analysis of the racial parameters of this discourse,
see Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood, pp. 23-30.
In this regard, it seems telling that the first American-born woman
to have lectured in public was Maria W. Stewart, an African American
who, in 1832 in Boston, delivered a series of lectures that were subsequently published in William Lloyd Garrison's abolitionist weekly, The
Liberator. Conversely, the fact that the first white American women to
speak publicly, Angelina and Sarah Grimké, did so in 1837 on behalf of
the American Anti-Slavery Society is paradigmatic of the historical
relationship of both nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. anti-racist
and anti-sexist struggles. For a pioneer study of this parallel in the histories of the early woman's suffrage movement and the birth of contemporary feminism, see Sara Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of
Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left ( New
York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), especially p. 24.
A failure to fully grasp this distinction, in my opinion, ties at the
heart of Kirsten Buick's oddly ahistoric reading of Edmonia Lewis's
figures of women of color. Buick's claim that the Victorian cult of "true
womanhood" extended undifferentially to black women and therefore
determined Lewis's representations of gender, fails to take into account
both the contested nature of dominant nineteenth-century gender
ideals and the pivotal role of black women as symbols of the intersection of ethnic and sexual exploitation, as well as role models for white
female political activists in the emergence of nineteenth-century feminism. Kirsten P. Buick, "The Ideal Works of Edmonia Lewis: Invoking
and Inverting Autobiography", American Art, vol. 9, no. 2 ( Summer 1995): 5-19. For a discussion of nineteenth-century black women's
awareness of and responses to their exclusion from the ideology of true
womanhood, see Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood, pp. 32-39. For a
complex and subtly nuanced reading of the black woman's symbolic
function in the discourses of feminist abolitionism, see Sanchez- Eppler
, "Bodily Bonds".
This is not to say that black women failed to go abroad, a misconception that the European travels of Phyllis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells, Lucy Parsons, and Sarah Parker Remond belle. Yet to a startling
degree, with the exceptions of Remond (who published a letter in the London Daily News protesting the anti-black bias of British reports on Jamaica's 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion) and Anna Julia Cooper (who
delivered a paper on "The Negro Problem in America" at the first
Pan-African Conference in 1900 in London), Afro-American women
seem remarkably silent in the annals of nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury black diasporic debates. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, pp. 17-18. Dorothy B. Porter and
Sarah Parker Remond, Dictionary of American
Negro Biography, ed.
Rayford W. Logan and
Michael R. Winston ( New
York: WW. Norton, 1982), p. 523. Mary Gibson Hundley,
Anna Julia Cooper
, Dictionary of American Negro Biography, p. 128.