The Black Subject in Nineteenth-Century American Literature and Culture

Delia Steverson
2017 unpublished
In the nineteenth century, the debate surrounding the status of African American personhood foregrounded a point of contention amongst citizens in an America newly emancipated from the reigns of Britain. Prior to the Civil War, questions about enslaved subjectivity emerged that had not been asked before. The growing tension between citizens of the North and citizens of the South, and between proponents and opponents of slavery, foregrounded key debates in an America that sought to establish its
more » ... ht to establish its citizens as fit or unfit for civic engagement. This course will investigate the complex and fluid definitions of black personhood in the nineteenth century. Some of the questions this course will address are: How were blackness and black subjectivity defined in the nineteenth-century? What were the key debates surrounding black citizenship? How did black authors themselves use different mediums-including autobiography, fiction, poetry, sermons, essays-to construct black subjectivity? How were both black and nonblack writers portraying the racial tensions of the century? We will form our discussions around issues of race during slavery, the Reconstruction, and post-Reconstruction, ending with W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington's debates concerning racial uplift and progress for African Americans.