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“Try to Refrain from That Desire”

“Try to Refrain from That Desire”

Self-Control and Violent Passion in Oscar Micheaux’s African American Western

Chapter:
(p.51) 2 “Try to Refrain from That Desire”
Source:
Hoo-Doo Cowboys and Bronze Buckaroos
Author(s):
Michael K. Johnson
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781617039287.003.0003

Although Oscar Micheaux’s novel The Homesteader is clearly a western, it is also specifically an African American western, a revised version of the genre that is guided and informed by Micheaux’s belief in the goal of racial uplift. However, the promises of freedom, conquest, and transformed masculinity offered by the South Dakota frontier and the western genre seem available to the black man only through erasure—only if he assimilates thoroughly and abandons any sense of responsibility to others of his race. Micheaux’s protagonist Baptiste is caught between the conflicting goals of uplift and assimilation. Micheaux also uses the book’s primary settings (Chicago and South Dakota) to adapt the central structuring opposition of the western—the essential difference between the civilized East and the wild West—to articulate Baptiste’s sense of double-consciousness, his conflicting desires both to maintain and to erase his racial identity

Keywords:   Oscar Micheaux, Masculinity, South Dakota, Double-Consciousness, Racial Uplift

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