From Slave Cabins to the White House: Homemade Citizenship in African American Culture

Univ. of Illinois. Aug. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780252043321. $34.95. LIT
In this analysis of classic works of literature that explore domesticity in African American households, Mitchell (English, Ohio State Univ., Living with Lynching) calls for a new understanding of how Black Americans have defined success and created homes, arguing that "white violence" has targeted them precisely because of this success. Novels and plays by authors ­Harriet Jacobs, Elizabeth Keckley, Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Alice ­Childress, Octavia Butler, and Toni ­Morrison are reexamined to demonstrate how these writers and their characters strove for "homemade citizenship," or a sense of belonging and community that is not defined by white standards or backlash. Mitchell places these works into the context of ongoing conversations about African American achievement, describing the dangers it elicited in the past and continues to provoke now, and emphasizing how Black women’s advancement, particularly within the home, has evolved over time. A concluding chapter on Michelle Obama discusses both the demonization and the celebration of her rise as the first African American first lady.
VERDICT An essential, scholarly volume for academic and larger public library collections devoted to the literary traditions and history of African American women throughout U.S. history.
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