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Novel BondageSlavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Tess Chakkalakal

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036330

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036330.001.0001

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Wedded to Race

Wedded to Race

Charles Chesnutt’s Stories of the Color Line

(p.83) 5. Wedded to Race
Novel Bondage

Tess Chakkalakal

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on Charles Chesnutt's postslavery fiction and criticism that, in some respects, might be read as offering one of the most effective counterarguments to Harper's view of marriage and vision of freedom. Chesnutt casts a surprisingly critical eye on the movement to legitimate slave-marriages during Reconstruction, a movement celebrated by historians of marriage and slavery alike. While Harper views marriage as essential to preserving relations formed in slavery, Chesnutt presents it as a way of breaking free of those relations, of forming new relations that eschew the racial principles that made it impossible for former slaves and their descendants to marry according to self-interest and personal desire. The differences between their positions are suggestive of a broader political debate about the formation of a postslavery slave community.

Keywords:   Charles Chesnutt, postslavery fiction, Francis Harper, slave-marriages, Reconstruction, slavery, slave community, Stories of the Color Line

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