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A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature by Jennifer C. James

By Jennifer C. James

Within the first accomplished examine of African American warfare literature, Jennifer James analyzes fiction, poetry, autobiography, and histories concerning the significant wars waged prior to the desegregation of the U.S. army in 1948. reading literature concerning the Civil struggle, the Spanish-American Wars, global struggle I, and global battle II, James introduces various infrequent and understudied texts via writers corresponding to Victor Daly, F. provide Gilmore, William Gardner Smith, and Susie King Taylor. She argues that works by means of those in addition to canonical writers comparable to William Wells Brown, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Gwendolyn Brooks mark a particular contribution to African American letters.

In developing African American conflict literature as a long-standing literary style in its personal correct, James additionally considers the ways that this writing, situated because it is on moments of nationwide difficulty, complex debates approximately black id and African americans' claims to citizenship. In a provocative review, James argues that the very ambivalence over using violence as a political tool defines African American conflict writing and creates a compelling, contradictory physique of literature that defies effortless summary.

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Additional info for A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature from the Civil War to World War II

Example text

African American literature produced after emancipation necessarily grapples with the legacy of slavery, not simply its lasting effect on matters racial, social, and political, but also the imprints slavery left on a tradition of black writing that had been largely abolitionist in its purposes and which sought, accordingly, to contest images of black Americans in proslavery literature. Both bodies of work, anti- and proslavery, depended on mobilizing a host of "stock" figures: the "heroic" slave, the "tragic mulatto/a," the amoral overseer, the northerner/abolitionist, the "darky," the "benevolent" plantation patriarch.

Influenced perhaps by the symbolic blackness of what Delany called his "New negro" black male hero in his Blake; or, The Huts ojAmerica, Brown concluded that George was too white to signify black manhood, physically and ideologically. More than a bulked-up, colorized version of George, Jerome consolidates the two distinct manifestations of black heroic masculinity in the novel: the ultralight black romantic hero who marries the mulatta heroine and is allowed access to the domestic sentimentalized narrative, and the ultrablack slave-revolutionary, whose acts place him within a differing narrative, one that distinctly disallows for domestic stability.

It almost seems unnecessary to explain the degree of optimism that the war gave black Americans, and therefore the corresponding degree of disappointment African Americans experienced when their hopes for prosperous lives as freed people were dashed repeatedly. Long before the abolition of slavery was declared an official war aim, and well before the Emancipation Proclamation, most blacks understood that any war between the northern and southern states would turn on the issue of slavery. Brown, a tireless antislavery activist, had ample reason to believe that everything he had worked for his entire adult life would come to fruition.

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