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The Mulatta and the Politics of Race$
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Teresa C. Zackodnik

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781604735543

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604735543.001.0001

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Little Romances and Mulatta Heroines

Little Romances and Mulatta Heroines

Passing for a “True Woman” in Frances Harper’s Iola Leroy and Pauline Hopkins’s Contending Forces

(p.75) Chapter 3 Little Romances and Mulatta Heroines
The Mulatta and the Politics of Race

Teresa C. Zackodnik

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter examines true womanhood in relation to white womanhood within the framework of a dialectical and exclusionary relationship to black womanhood. It looks at how early black feminists sought to reclaim the black female body and promoted a noble black womanhood that acknowledged the realities of African American women’s lived experience. Focusing on the novels of Frances Harper and Pauline Hopkins, Iola Leroy (1892) and Contending Forces (1899), respectively, it explores existing notions of racial difference and argues that Harper and Hopkins represent the mulatta as passing for a “true woman.” It also considers Judith Butler’s notion of identity as performative and Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s rhetorical theory of African American signifying before concluding with a discussion of the “double-voiceness” of Iola Leroy and Contending Forces.

Keywords:   true womanhood, white womanhood, black womanhood, Frances Harper, Pauline Hopkins, Iola Leroy, Contending Forces, racial difference, mulatta, true woman

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