"Till Death or Distance Do You Part": Representations of African American Marriages in the Works of Fiction Writers and Social Scientists 公开

Hinton, Jessica Faye (2009)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/0v8380787?locale=zh
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Abstract

By the late twentieth-century, the marriages of black men and black women had become a focal point within the politically charged debate that followed the 1965 publication of the Moynihan report on the "black family." As the pivot upon which the debate stood, the institution of marriage served both opponents and defenders of the historic and contemporary "black family" as a critical site for understanding how black men and black women defined their families and households. Discussions on the marriages of African American persons, however, did not begin in the twentieth century, nor were they limited to fields of History, or even Sociology for that matter. Conversations on marriage, and its relation to African American culture, had begun as far back as the nineteenth century, if not earlier, often appearing in the most unexpected and unlikely of places. One such "unexpected and unlikely place" that we can now find a wealth of material on the subject of black marriages is in the works of fiction writers.

This thesis is meant to reveal the significance of those "unlikely" writings on black marriages produced by post-nineteenth century fiction writers, and their relation to those written by social scientists during the same period. One of my intentions in writing this thesis is to bring to light the often neglected significance of post-nineteenth century fiction authors' interest in the marriages of black men and black women. A second intention is to integrate their perspectives with those of major social scientists of the "black family." Most do not think of fictional writers such as Victor Sejour, Zora Neale Hurston, or Toni Morrison as being, in the same way as authors such as U.B. Phillips, Herbert Gutman, and Eugene Genovese, writers on the topic of black marriages. Despite the assumptions otherwise, and as this study seeks to reveal, the works of fiction writers on the topic of black marriages are a wonderful resource from which to gain a fuller understanding of the complex issues surrounding representations of black marriages.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS Introduction…………………………………………………………………..1 I. Depictions of Slave Marriage in the Mid-Nineteenth Century Fiction Text a. Victor Sejour's "The Mulatto"……………………………...……5 b. Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin…………………….9 c. William Wells Brown's Clotel…………………………….……13 II. Twentieth Century Black Marriages in Slavery and Freedom a. Ulrich Bonner Phillips' American Negro Slavery………….……19 b. Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God………….21 c. E. Franklin Frazier's The Negro Family in the United States…...24 d. Gwendolyn Brook's Maud Martha………………………………27 e. Kenneth Stampp's The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South……………………………………………………………...30 f. Stanley M. Elkins's Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life……………………………………………………32 III. Daniel P. Moynihan's The Negro Family: A Case for National Action (1965) …………………………………………………….34 IV. Rewriting Black Marriages and Families in the Late Twentieth Century a. Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye…………………………….......37

b. Eugene Genovese's Roll Jordan Roll………………………….......42

c. Gayl Jones' Corregidora…………………………………………..44 d. Herbert Gutman's The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom…….48 e. Alice Walker's The Color Purple………………………………….50 f. Deborah Gray White's Ar'nt I a Woman…………………………..56 V. Conclusion ……………………………………………………….........59 VI. Bibliography…………………………………………………………...63

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