Mules and Dragons: Popular Culture Images in the Selected Writings of African-American and Chinese-American Women Writers

By Mary E. Young | Go to book overview

Chapter One
"John Chinaman" as
"Sambo"

Most Americans would claim at least a superficial knowledge of African- American history, which would undoubtedly include slavery and Emancipation. But since little Asian-American history is taught, most Americans would not acknowledge holding cursory information about Chinese- Americans. African-American women authors from Linda Brent to Alice Walker have confronted their history by acknowledging it, incorporating certain aspects into their writing, and challenging the assumptions that have arisen from it. But the history of Chinese-Americans is seldom included in the writings of Chinese-American women, although their history and images are intertwined with those of African-Americans. A study of these writings demonstrates the development of a mythic Chinese past rather than an American reality.

On July 13, 1869, approximately six years after Emancipation, a group of Southern planters met in Memphis1 to explore possible solutions to their labor problem and, concomitantly, their problem with the freedman. The recently freed slaves were voting, running for and being elected to office, demanding equal pay for work, and no longer limiting themselves to agricultural work. The Southern planters were meeting to consider putting a plan into action that would return the now-unmanageable freedman into his former enslaved position. The planters had considered introducing another racial group to do the work formerly done by the ex-slaves, probably eastern or southern Europeans, but this plan did not receive sufficient support. In the end, the planters finally approved a scheme "aimed at preserving the traditional Southern labor system by substituting

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Mules and Dragons: Popular Culture Images in the Selected Writings of African-American and Chinese-American Women Writers
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Women's Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter One "John Chinaman" As "Sambo" 1
  • Notes 19
  • Chapter Three The Female Response: Harriet E. Wilson To Alice Walker 47
  • Chapter Four Dragon Ladies, Susie Wongs, And Passive Dolls 81
  • Chapter Five Sui Sin Far to Amy Tan 109
  • Chapter Six African-Americans And Chinese-Americans 133
  • Selected Bibliography 149
  • Index 155
  • About the Author 158
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