Race and the Literary Encounter: Black Literature from James Weldon Johnson to Percival Everett

By Lesley Larkin | Go to book overview

ONE
Unbinding the Double Audience

James Weldon Johnson

IN HIS JULY 1938 OBITUARY FOR JAMES WELDON JOHNSON, published in the prominent black newspaper the New York Age, Howard sociologist Kelly Miller charged the beloved author and political leader with having built his literary reputation by pandering to white readers. In Miller’s view, despite a mediocre and occasional literary oeuvre, Johnson achieved artistic distinction because his works avoided controversy and failed to challenge the “racial sensibility” of an overwhelmingly white audience. Johnson’s “fame,” Miller argued, “rest[ed] chiefly on the appraisal of white people.” Despite Johnson’s many civic accomplishments (which included his role as the first black executive secretary of the NAACP and an antilynching crusade), Miller faulted Johnson for molding his art to the expectations and preferences of white readers.1

Miller’s critique of Johnson is but one moment in a century of debates among black writers about how best to represent black life to a majority white readership. Just a few months earlier, Richard Wright described Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God as a literary minstrel show, writing, “Miss Hurston voluntarily continues in her novel the tradition which was forced upon the Negro in the theater, that is, the minstrel technique that makes the ‘white folks’ laugh” (17). And just over a decade later, James Baldwin accused Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Richard Wright’s Native Son, of being a “descendant” of Uncle Tom (21). For her part, Hurston accused the publishing industry of refusing to publish works that did not conform to preconceived stereotypes and faulted white readers for having little curiosity about middle-class black people (“What”).

-33-

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Race and the Literary Encounter: Black Literature from James Weldon Johnson to Percival Everett
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Blacks in the Diaspora ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Scenes of Reading, Scenes of Racialization- Modern and Contemporary Black Literature 3
  • One - Unbinding the Double Audience 33
  • Two - Speakerly Reading 65
  • Three - Close Reading "You" 93
  • Four - Erasing Precious 125
  • Five - Reading and Being Read 165
  • Epilogue - Toward a Theory and Pedagogy of Responsible Reading 191
  • Notes 215
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 261
  • Blacks in the Diaspora 279
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 283

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.