"Miscegenation": Making Race in America

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University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002 - Social Science - 204 pages
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In the years between the Revolution and the Civil War, as the question of black political rights was debated more and more vociferously, descriptions and pictorial representations of whites coupling with blacks proliferated in the North. Novelists, short-story writers, poets, journalists, and political cartoonists imagined that political equality would be followed by widespread inter-racial sex and marriage. Legally possible yet socially unthinkable, this "amalgamation" of the races would manifest itself in the perverse union of "whites" with "blacks," the latter figured as ugly, animal-like, and foul-smelling. In Miscegenation, Elise Lemire reads these literary and visual depictions for what they can tell us about the connection between the racialization of desire and the social construction of race.

Previous studies of the prohibition of interracial sex and marriage in the U.S. have focused on either the slave South or the post-Reconstruction period. Looking instead to the North, and to such texts as the Federalist poetry about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans, Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue," and the 1863 pamphlet in which the word "miscegenation" was first used, Lemire examines the steps by which whiteness became a sexual category and same-race desire came to seem a biological imperative.

  

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Contents

Race and the Idea of Preference in the New Republic The Port Folio Poems About Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings
11
The Rhetoric of Blood and Mixture Coopers Man Without a Cross
35
The Barrier of Good Taste Avoiding A Sojourn in the City of Amalgamation in the Wake of Abolitionism
53
Combating Abolitionism with the Species Argument Race and Economic Anxieties in Poes Philadelphia
87
Making Miscegenation Alcotts Paul Frere and the Limits of Brotherhood After Emancipation
115
Miscegenation Today
145
Notes
149
Bibliography
179
Index
191
Acknowledgments
203
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About the author (2002)

Elise Lemire, Associate Professor of Literature at Purchase College, State University of New York, is the author of Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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