Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and Harper

Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and Harper

Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and Harper

Resistance and Reformation in Nineteenth-Century African-American Literature: Brown, Wilson, Jacobs, Delany, Douglass, and Harper

Excerpt

In the penultimate paragraph of Frances E. W. Harper serialized novel Minnie's Sacrifice (1869)--the tragic conclusion of which clearly is meant to be uplifting--Harper addresses the significance of her attempt to shape the available cultural materials into a new plotting of the imagination, a new cultural script: "While some of the authors of the present day have been weaving their stories about white men marrying beautiful quadroon girls, who, in so doing were lost to us socially, I conceived of one of that same class to whom I gave a higher, holier destiny; a life of lofty self- sacrifice and beautiful self-consecration, finished at the post of duty, and rounded off with the fiery crown of martyrdom, a circlet which ever changes into a diadem of glory" (91). Harper here and elsewhere looks to weave together the materials of the time into a different story, one in which the protagonist speaks for the glory of choosing death of the individual over death of the community, thus symbolizing the sacrifice necessary to building, maintaining, and strengthening the black community. This is a story that gestures towards another realm, a "holier destiny," the closure that comes to a narrative that begins with duty and ends in martyrdom, and that binds together self-sacrifice and self-consecration. Harper claim for Minnie's Sacrifice lies not only in the story she has told . . .

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