History and Memory in African-American Culture

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As Nathan Huggins once stated, altering American history to account fully for the nation's black voices would change the tone and meaning - the frame and the substance - of the entire story. Rather than a sort of Pilgrim's Progress tale of bold ascent and triumph, American history with the black parts told in full would be transmuted into an existential tragedy, closer, Huggins said, to Sartre's No Exit than to the vision of life in Bunyan. The relation between memory and history has received increasing attention both from historians and from literary critics. In this volume, a group of leading scholars has come together to examine the role of historical consciousness and imagination in African-American culture. The result is a complex picture of the dynamic ways in which African-American historical identity constantly invents and transmits itself in literature, art, oral documents, and performances. Each of the scholars represented has chosen a different "site of memory" - from a variety of historical and geographical points, and from different ideological, theoretical, and artistic perspectives. Yet the book is unified by a common concern with the construction of an emerging African-American cultural memory.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195083965
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1994
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Genevi�ve Fabre is Professor of American Literature at the University of Paris. Robert O'Meally is Professor of English at Columbia University.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 The Black Writer's Use of Memory 18
3 The Politics of Fiction, Anthropology, and the Folk: Zora Neale Hurston 28
4 W. E. B. Du Bois and the Struggle for American Historical Memory 45
5 African-American Commemorative Celebrations in the Nineteenth Century 72
6 National Identity and Ethnic Diversity: "Of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown and Ellis Island"; or, Ethnic Literature and Some Redefinitions of America 92
7 International Beacons of African-American Memory: Alexandre Dumas pere, Henry O. Tanner, and Josephine Baker as Examples of Recognition 122
8 On the Wrong Side of the Fence: Racial Segregation in American Cemeteries 130
9 What One Cannot Remember Mistakenly 150
10 History-Telling and Time: An Example from Kentucky 164
11 Memory and Mass Culture 178
12 Performing the Memory of Difference in Afro-Caribbean Dance: Katherine Dunham's Choreography, 1938-87 188
13 "With a Whip in His Hand": Rape, Memory, and African-American Women 205
14 Sherley Anne Williams' Dessa Rose: History and the Disruptive Power of Memory 219
15 Art History and Black Memory: Toward a "Blues Aesthetic" 228
16 On Burke and the Vernacular: Ralph Ellison's Boomerang of History 244
17 The Journals of Charlotte L. Forten-Grimke: Les Lieux de Memoire in African-American Women's Autobiography 261
18 Washington Park 272
19 Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire 284
Contributors 301
Index 303
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