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Chapter 2 - Stories of Citizenship: The Rise of Narrative Black Poetry during Reconstruction

from Part I - Citizenships, Textualities, and Domesticities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2021

Eric Gardner
Affiliation:
Saginaw Valley State University
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Summary

Locating a pedagogical impulse in the Reconstruction texts of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, James Madison Bell, and Albery Whitman, Stephanie Farrar’s “Stories of Citizenship: The Rise of Narrative Black Poetry during Reconstruction” identifies an emergent form of Black poetry pioneered in Reconstruction that has previously gone essentially unrecognized: long narrative verse that thematizes and analyzes the formation of Black citizenship. In laying claim to a form deeply linked with both national identity and whiteness, the chapter suggests that Black writers seized the cultural power of narrative verse to force a reckoning with the ongoing impact of slavery and the new mechanisms of racial hierarchy that replaced it. It draws attention to the form’s multiscalar cultural work as an analysis of, history of, didactic model for, and even enactment of modes of citizenship for Black Americans, and it illustrates the special role of the AME Christian Recorder in promulgating this poetry as an instrument of Black nationalism, attempting to counter attacks on black social and political life during Reconstruction and to theorize the conditions and components of freedom itself.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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