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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2021

Jennifer Haytock
Affiliation:
State University College, Brockport, New York
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Summary

Unaware that people in the United States fought for freedom before the French brewed their Revolution, Gabriel uses the knowledge that violence can facilitate a better future to lead his fellows in an uprising intended to change the legal and social order of slave-holding Virginia. Near the end of the novel, however, an unnamed character, a veteran of Toussaint’s uprising in Haiti, watches the captured Gabriel pass through the streets and meditates on the costs of war: he knows that “words like freedom and liberty drip blood” (196, emphasis in original). In American ideology, freedom demands sacrifices, including dying, seeing comrades die, and living with the act of killing. As Bontemps suggests, the full consequences of violent conflict may be apparent only after the event. Further, while Bontemps’ novel reaches back to explore a forgotten historical moment, Black Thunder also spoke to its contemporary context: in the 1930s, as fascism flourished overseas, Bontemps was keenly aware of oppression against blacks across the diaspora – and of movements to unite and resist. Thus this representation of an aborted skirmish in a war that took another sixty-one years to be declared shows how imaginative renderings of one conflict may in fact have much to do with another.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Jennifer Haytock, State University College, Brockport, New York
  • Book: War and American Literature
  • Online publication: 20 January 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108654883.002
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  • Introduction
  • Edited by Jennifer Haytock, State University College, Brockport, New York
  • Book: War and American Literature
  • Online publication: 20 January 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108654883.002
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Edited by Jennifer Haytock, State University College, Brockport, New York
  • Book: War and American Literature
  • Online publication: 20 January 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108654883.002
Available formats
×