Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Forthcoming and Noteworthy-- Did Female Authors Change Pre-Civil War Society's Perceptions of Slaves?

Gender and Race in Antebellum Popular Culture, Sarah N. Roth, Cambridge University Press, 314 pages, 14 black and white illustrations 14 tables, $99.00.  [July 2014]

From The Publisher: 
  • Demonstrates that white women had a vital impact on the political landscape of antebellum and Civil War-era America via their influence on popular culture  
  • Offers a fresh new angle on whiteness studies by focusing on the development of race consciousness among middle-class white women in the mid-nineteenth century 
  • Utilizes novels, short stories, plays, and other popular culture media as historical sources
In the decades leading to the Civil War, popular conceptions of African American men shifted dramatically. The savage slave featured in 1830s' novels and stories gave way by the 1850s to the less-threatening humble black martyr. This radical reshaping of black masculinity in American culture occurred at the same time that the reading and writing of popular narratives were emerging as largely feminine enterprises.

In a society where women wielded little official power, white female authors exalted white femininity, using narrative forms such as autobiographies, novels, short stories, visual images, and plays, by stressing differences that made white women appear superior to male slaves. This book argues that white women, as creators and consumers of popular culture media, played a pivotal role in the demasculinization of black men during the antebellum period, and consequently had a vital impact on the political landscape of antebellum and Civil War–era America through their powerful influence on popular culture.

CWL: Though pricey for a private collection, your local librarian will be able find you a copy through inter-library loan.

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