Racism, Segregation, and Interracial Sex and Intimacy in the Protest Novels of Chester Himes and Lillian Smith Open Access

Tariq, Malcolm Hakeem (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/b8515n62b?locale=en


The 1940 publication of Richard Wright's Native Son marks the beginning of a significant era in American letters; it is credited with developing the naturalist African American protest novel. Chester Himes is often noted as a Wright's predecessor as his first two published novels are written in the same protest tradition in their examinations of racism as Himes experienced it in Los Angeles during World War II. Likewise, Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit explores segregation in the post-World War I South. Notably, both of these writers interrogate African American subjectivity through the framework of interracial sexual politics or intimacy. This thesis investigates how Himes and Smith advance their plots using the sexual affairs between the black and white races as tools by which to expound on larger American racial discourses. An examination of Himes's work will closely inspect how he writes the experience of the black man and his interactions with white women. I will also explain how Himes scripts anger into his black male characters and how he uses this attribute to write against the conventional hero. Quite the opposite, the black woman will be the primary subject in the inspection of Smith's novel due to how she is constructed in the white Southern imaginary and physically controlled by the Southern white man.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1.....13
Fear, Failure, and Encounters of Interracial Sex in Chester Himes's If He Hollers Let Him Go and Lonely Crusade

Chapter 2.....34
Southern Segregation and the Control of Black Women's Bodies in Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit


Works Cited.....57

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