Discarded Legacy: Politics and Poetics in the Life of Frances E. W. Harper, 1825-1911

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In essence, she has written a "bio-critical study," a very personal account of a poet representing and presenting a poet.

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Overview

Frances E. W. Harper is a central figure in the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century African-American literature and intellectual thought. The foremost poet of the "free colored community," she was also a lecturer,

educator, essayist, and novelist. A prolific champion of the abolitionist and feminist causes, she has come to be recognized for the critical role she played in the rise of the women's movement, particularly in the development of the black women's movement. Yet neither her art nor her political insight was preserved by subsequent generations until recently.

In this important study, poet Melba Joyce Boyd analyzes Harper not simply as a feminist and an activist, but as a writer. Boyd reads her in context, placing Harper's life, poetry, novels, and speeches within the nineteenth century African-American quest for

"freedom and literacy."

Harper's genius is illuminated as Boyd traces her radicalism through her struggles with issues of race, gender, and class, and the other personal and social injustices she

confronted. Discarded Legacy comprises three parts: "The Abolitionist Years," "The Pursuit of the Promised Land," and "The Woman's Era." These divisions characterize the thrust of the historical periods which encompass Harper's lifetime and the thematic

focus of her writings. Though Harper's primary political emphasis is on slavery and the Reconstruction, she sustains a strong feminist voice throughout these times and in all of her writings. Likewise, during the women's era, she maintains an anti-racist stance and strongly criticizes racism in white

feminist politics.

Boyd's response to Harper's work is interactive and improvisational, and whenever possible, she maintains Harper's voice, allowing her to speak about her own work. When analyzing Harper's language, Boyd provides insight into Harper's aesthetic by

discussing the writings thematically and structurally within a biographical framework. Finally, by examining Harper's use of traditional poetic techniques, language, oral tradition forms, and other tools, Boyd

demonstrates how Harper's art and politics are synthesized into a dynamic whole.

This book weaves Harper's radical vision with the intuitive and analytical dimensions of her imagination and language. Through perceptive explication of Harper's writings and

consideration of her thematic inclinations and political and social affiliations, Boyd is able to show how Harper crafted her subjects and how the literature and speeches interrelated

in theme and historical experience. Boyd has successfully arranged Harper's work in a manner that connects our present to Harper's past and that re-envisions her consciousness.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this study of lecturer, educator, poet, essayist, novelist, and abolitionist Harper, Boyd (The Inventory of Black Roses, Past Tents Pr., 1989) offers a literal exhibition of the perils that still adversely affect the security, prosperity, and expectations of African Americans in the United States today. Harper spoke with subtlety of the overwhelming injustices perpetrated against African Americans of her time and her concerns for the future. Organized around publications of Harper's poetry, speeches, or letters, the book is divided into three parts: ``The Abolitionist Years,'' ``The Pursuit of the Promised Land,'' and ``The Women's Era.'' Highly recommended for all those who appreciate unearthed history and current works on blacks and the Reconstruction era.-Gayle S. Leach, Prince George Cty. Memorial Lib. System, Largo, Md.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814324899
  • Publisher: Wayne State University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/1994
  • Series: African American Life Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Melba Joyce Boyd is an associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University and an adjunct associate professor at the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, where she received her Doctor of Arts degree. She is the author of The Inventory of Black Roses and three other books of poetry.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 8
Prelude 10
Introduction: Discarded Legacy 11
Ch. 1 Orphaned and Exiled 33
Ch. 2 'Neath Sheltering Vines and Stately Palms: The Radical Vision of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper 56
Ch. 3 Mosaic Legacy: Frances Harper and the Afroamerican Quest for the Promised Land 79
Ch. 4 The Legacy of the Daughters of Ishmael: To Be Black and Female 113
Ch. 5 The Dialectics of Dialect Poetry: Frances Harper's Sketches of Southern Life 147
Ch. 6 Iola Leroy, or Shadows Uplifted: A Novel by a Black Nazarene 169
Ch. 7 Frances E. W. Harper and the Legacy of Black Feminism 197
Ch. 8 Retrieval of a Legacy 228
Notes 239
Bibliography 247
Bibliography: Frances E. W. Harper 255
Index 257
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