Race Men

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Harvard University Press, Nov 15, 2000 - Social Science - 240 pages
Who are the "race men" standing for black America? It is a question Hazel Carby rejects, along with its long-standing assumption: that a particular type of black male can represent the race. A searing critique of definitions of black masculinity at work in American culture, Race Men shows how these defining images play out socially, culturally, and politically for black and white society--and how they exclude women altogether. Carby begins by looking at images of black masculinity in the work of W. E. B. Du Bois. Her analysis of The Souls of Black Folk reveals the narrow and rigid code of masculinity that Du Bois applied to racial achievement and advancement--a code that remains implicitly but firmly in place today in the work of celebrated African American male intellectuals. The career of Paul Robeson, the music of Huddie Ledbetter, and the writings of C. L. R. James on cricket and on the Haitian revolutionary, Toussaint L'Ouverture, offer further evidence of the social and political uses of representations of black masculinity. In the music of Miles Davis and the novels of Samuel R. Delany, Carby finds two separate but related challenges to conventions of black masculinity. Examining Hollywood films, she traces through the career of Danny Glover the development of a cultural narrative that promises to resolve racial contradictions by pairing black and white men--still leaving women out of the picture. A powerful statement by a major voice among black feminists, Race Men holds out the hope that by understanding how society has relied upon affirmations of masculinity to resolve social and political crises, we can learn to transcend them.
 

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Race men

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In six compelling essays, Carby (African American studies and American studies, Yale Univ.), known for her landmark literary text Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Woman ... Read full review

Contents

1 The Souls of Black Men
9
2 The Body and Soul of Modernism
45
3 Tuning the American Soul
87
4 Body Lines and Color Lines
113
5 Playin the Changes
135
6 Lethal Weapons and City Games
169
Notes
193
Acknowledgments
221
Index
223
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Page 16 - Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house...
Page 14 - American pragmatism is less a philosophical tradition putting forward solutions to perennial problems in the Western philosophical conversation initiated by Plato and more a continuous cultural commentary or set of interpretations that attempt to explain America to itself at a particular historical moment.
Page 4 - For the development of Negro genius, of Negro literature and art, of Negro spirit, only Negroes bound and welded together, Negroes inspired by one vast ideal, can work out in its fullness the great message we have for humanity.

About the author (2000)

Hazel V. Carby is a British-born critic of African American literature. Stuart Hall and other scholars affiliated with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in England where she studied during the 1970s informed her work. In Reconstructing Womanhood (1987), Carby focuses on the fiction and journalism of African American women writing from the mid-to-late nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. She demonstrates that African American women of that period articulated a distinctive black feminist discourse and politics in response to the sexism of American culture and the racism of the white feminist movements that arose to combat that sexism. She suggests that the racism of white feminist theory has resulted from a failure to see whiteness as a racial (and historical) category, rather than as a universal (and ahistorical) norm. The latter, Carby claims, would guarantee that all women, regardless of differences of race, are "sisters in struggle" because they share an essential femininity or experience of oppression. Carby urges African American feminists to avoid the same mistake by assuming that all African American women share some universal experience of black femininity and oppression that is expressed in the black female literary tradition as a black female aesthetic. The production of an essential black literary tradition or literary aesthetic always necessitates the suppression of differences, including the different aesthetics that may arise in response to different experiences and histories. Carby argues that the current African American literary canon is the product of just such a suppression, because it highlights texts that focus on and even romanticize black southern, rural culture at the expense of northern, urban, working- and middle-class black culture. She calls for a reevaluation of the output of such authors as Nella Larsen and Jessie Redmond Fauset, whose work has been dismissed or ignored because it does not participate in the perpetuation of the myth of "the folk.

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