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The Rise of Multicultural AmericaEconomy and Print Culture, 1865-1915$
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Susan L. Mizruchi

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780807832509

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807887967_mizruchi

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Racism as Opportunity in The Reconstruction Era

Racism as Opportunity in The Reconstruction Era

Chapter:
(p.44) 2 Racism as Opportunity in The Reconstruction Era
Source:
The Rise of Multicultural America
Author(s):

Susan L. Mizruchi

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/9780807887967_mizruchi.6

This chapter focuses on the autobiography published by Harriet Jacobs during the beginning of the Civil War. The book recounted Jacobs' unusual experience of slavery; in particular, her ability, as a literate, light-skinned slave with free relatives in town, to resist the sexual advances of her master, Dr. James Norcom, and to seek protection from a local white lawyer before escaping. Jacobs' narrative provides a valuable introduction to race relations in the Reconstruction era, offering an acute sociological portrait of the American slavery system and its long-term effects on whites and blacks, North and South. Namelessness, invisibility, and constant degradation were means of conferring upon slaves a condition of “social death.” The master–slave bond, as Jacobs describes it, is parasitical as well as perversely intimate: the slave institutionalized as marginal is essential to the social structure that denies her humanity.

Keywords:   Harriet Jacobs, Civil War, race relations, Reconstruction era, American slavery system, social death

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