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Koritha Mitchell analyzes canonical texts by and about African American women to lay bare the hostility these women face as they invest in traditional domesticity. Instead of the respectability and safety granted white homemakers, black women endure pejorative labels, racist governmental policies, attacks on their citizenship, and aggression meant to keep them in "their place."
Tracing how African Americans define and redefine success in a nation determined to deprive them of it, Mitchell plumbs the works of Frances Harper, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison, Michelle Obama, and others. These artists honor black homes from slavery and post-emancipation through the Civil Rights era to "post-racial" America. Mitchell follows black families asserting their citizenship in domestic settings while the larger society and culture marginalize and attack them, not because they are deviants or failures but because they meet American standards.
Powerful and provocative, From Slave Cabins to the White House illuminates the links between African American women's homemaking and citizenship in history and across literature.
About the Author
Koritha Mitchell is an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University and the author of Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930.
"Brilliant scholar and literary critic, Koritha Mitchell, shows us just how radical the act of successful homemaking was for Black women in the face of the violence it elicited from white people. Analyzing canonical Black women's texts, she shows us just how committed, loving, and defiant Black women have been in creating home in the world and in literature." ―Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times Bestselling author of What the Truth Sounds Like
"This project on homemade citizenship will reframe the conversation around anti-blackness by mapping how black women intellectuals, activists and artists continually respond–and with great success–to attacks and infringements upon their collective creative efforts. This work is a needed subtlety, as it approaches categories like 'achievement' and 'success' from the fabric of black cultural production, rather than the font of white supremacy’s violent response to black existence. From Slave Cabins to the White House encourages us to ask new questions, one of which is certainly how did we/do we make a home and sustain it creatively in the midst of ongoing hostilities?"--Sharon Patricia Holland, author of The Erotic Life of Racism
"This deeply researched, thoughtful volume made me think in new ways about how Black women have navigated, redefined and articulated concepts of home, domesticity, family, place and citizenship in American culture and politics; it is also a true pleasure to read."--Rebecca Traister, New York Times bestselling author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
"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." — Library Journal
"Mitchell sheds light on Black homemaking in the midst of anti-Blackness and oppression." — Ms.