Social Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction
University of Michigan 2013
Andrei Williams‘ provocative new book on African American class divisions in Post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow America is sure to spark spirited debate among those interested in how the interplay of economic status and racial identity influence what has been called “the black experience.” Her insightful book is called Dividing Lines: Social Class Anxiety and Postbellum Black Fiction (University of Michigan, 2013). Specifically, the book examines how late-nineteenth-century black authors represent intra-racial stratification and class mobility. Analyzing works by such authors as Frances Harper, Sutton Griggs, Paul L. Dunbar, and Charles Chesnutt, Williams casts doubt on the now two-easy distinction between sell out and black nationalist when it comes to class ascension as she historicizes the moment when blacks were seeking to compete in the mainstream. Her look at representations of class at the turn of the 20th Century is fresh and illuminating.
Please, listen in to the discussion.