New Books Network

Koritha Mitchell

Iola Leroy Or, Shadows Uplifted by Frances E.W. Harper

Broadview Editions 2018

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network April 20, 2018 Annette Joseph-Gabriel

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s nineteenth-century novel Iola Leroy has not always been considered a core text in the canon of African American literature. Indeed,...

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s nineteenth-century novel Iola Leroy has not always been considered a core text in the canon of African American literature. Indeed, throughout much of the twentieth century, her work was dismissed as derivate and was erased by intellectuals until black feminist scholars such as Deborah McDowell and Hazel Carby undertook the crucial work of recuperating Harper’s writings and highlighting her important contributions to African American literature and history. Koritha Mitchell’s new critical edition of the book–Iola Leroy Or, Shadows Uplifted (Broadview Editions, 2018)makes a timely contribution to the study of black literary and political history by contextualizing Harper’s life and work. In our contemporary moment where black women spearhead international movements for justice and equality such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too, but continue to be erased from public discourse and recognition, Mitchell’s foregrounding of Watkins Harper makes a crucial intervention in redressing the skewed narrative. Mitchell draws on the most recent scholarship and archival discoveries to provide a clearer picture of Watkins Harper and the importance of her novel then and now.

Koritha Mitchell specializes in African American literature, racial violence throughout U.S. literature and contemporary culture, and black drama and performance. She examines how texts, both written and performed, have helped terrorized families and communities survive and thrive. Her study Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930 (University of Illinois Press, 2011) won book awards from the American Theatre and Drama Society and from the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. Her essay “James Baldwin, Performance Theorist, Sings the Blues for Mister Charlie” appears in the March 2012 issue of American Quarterly and her Callaloo journal article “Love in Action” draws parallels between racial violence at the last turn of the century and anti-LGBT violence today. She recently completed a book manuscript, “From Slave Cabins to the White House: Homemade Citizenship in African American Culture.” For the most comprehensive picture of her current projects and activities, please visit Mitchell’s website.


Annette Joseph-Gabriel is an Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her forthcoming book, Decolonial Citizenship: Black Women’s Resistance in the Francophone World, examines Caribbean and African women’s literary and political contributions to anti-colonial movements.