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That Middle WorldRace, Performance, and the Politics of Passing$
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Julia S. Charles

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469659572

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469659572.001.0001

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That Performance

That Performance

(p.70) Chapter Three That Performance
That Middle World

Julia S. Charles

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter three is chiefly concerned with the theatricality of racial passing, or with race as performance. By complicating the histories of Black-to-white passing, this chapter considers how whiteness is imagined in and through performance in Black passing literature. It examines how bodily adornment (costuming) and the mixed-race body itself each contribute to the success of the cross. The chapter discusses two works of African American racial passing literature that were produced on the eve of the Civil War: Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860), the freedom narrative by William and Ellen Craft, and William Wells Brown’s The Escape; Or, A Leap for Freedom (1858), the first published play by an African American writer. This chapter also engages gender crossing. It reveals the sometimes infuriating, and often convincing, experiments of racial impersonation within these texts in order to argue that successful strategies of racial performance hinged equally on performer and audience.

Keywords:   William and Ellen Craft, William Wells Brown, Racial passing, Gender crossing, Whiteness, Theatrical, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, The Escape; Or, A Leap for Freedom, Racial impersonation, Racial performance

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