Printer Friendly
The Free Library
22,741,889 articles and books

The rhetoric of mobility, the politics of consciousness: Julia Mood Peterkin and the case of a white black writer.



The negroes have no books, they cannot read and they know nothing of how to write. Yet by word of mouth they have handed down through generations strange and beautiful myths. They sit over their fires and talk about them, tell them to their children.... It's such a pity they don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)

"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party.
 how to preserve them. When these old plantations are all gone, broken up and civilized, and the life of the people changed, they'll soon lose faith in their myths and superstitions and songs, and try to believe in the things of white people.--"Helen West," On a Plantation (1)

**********

There is confusion over why On a Plantation, one of a handful of Julia Peterkin's fictions focused through the eyes of a white character, was never published. Susan Williams Susan Rene Bartholomew-Williams (born June 17, 1969 in Long Beach, California) is a triathlete from the United States.

She competed at the second Olympic triathlon at the 2004 Summer Olympics. She placed third with a total time of 2:05:08.92.
 claims that Peterkin sought ambitiously to publish the would-be novel, submitting revisions of it to H. L. Mencken even after he advised her to abandon the project, because, as Williams maintains, Peterkin really preferred to write "about white people, especially white people like herself. But when she tried," concludes Williams, "her vision dimmed and the strong, sure voice turned pompous" ("A Devil" xv). In addition, Williams insists that Mencken's condemnation of On a Plantation's preoccupation with "petty, self-absorbed white people" and his approval of the more pointed emphasis on black culture in her early short stories, further discouraged Peterkin from adopting an overtly white perspective. (2) Whatever the case, Peterkin neither completed nor released any versions of On a Plantation. Her papers include drafts of at least one other (undated un·dat·ed  
adj.
1. Not marked with or showing a date: an undated letter; an undated portrait.

2.
 and untitled) story focused through a white woman's point-of-view, and Boy-Chillen (1932), her first and last attempt at drama, includes a central white character. Most of Peterkin's literary repertoire, particularly her acclaimed novels Black April (1927), Scarlet Sister Mary Scarlet Sister Mary

seeks divine forgiveness in night of wild prayer. [Am. Lit.: Scarlet Sister Mary]

See : Penitence
 (1928), (3) and Bright Skin (1932), however, focuses on and through black characters. When read in juxtaposition with these three novels, in the specific context of Peterkin's status as a modern plantation mistress, On a Plantation offers critical insight into the issues at the center of this essay, namely, the intricacies of Julia Peterkin's relationship with H. L. Mencken; the aesthetic politics of her novels; and her enduring reputation as a white "black" writer.

Helen West, the character speaking in my epigraph ep·i·graph  
n.
1. An inscription, as on a statue or building.

2. A motto or quotation, as at the beginning of a literary composition, setting forth a theme.
 from On a Plantation, is white, but her subjects are black people and black culture and her conclusions about both summarize whiteness caught in the undertow of encroaching modernity. I read Helen West as an alter ego A doctrine used by the courts to ignore the corporate status of a group of stockholders, officers, and directors of a corporation in reference to their limited liability so that they may be held personally liable for their actions when they have acted fraudulently or unjustly or when  through which Peterkin projects an image of "blackness" that is at once intelligible, inspirational, inferior, and obsolescent ob·so·les·cent  
adj.
1. Being in the process of passing out of use or usefulness; becoming obsolete.

2. Biology Gradually disappearing; imperfectly or only slightly developed.
. Nostalgic, mystical, and mythological imagery converges in the passage to thematize black power and subjugation Subjugation
Cushan-rishathaim Aram

king to whom God sold Israelites. [O.T.: Judges 3:8]

Gibeonites

consigned to servitude in retribution for trickery. [O.T.: Joshua 9:22–27]

Ham Noah

curses him and progeny to servitude. [O.
 while privileging white prophecy and progress. It is the very discursive process by which, I argue, Peterkin used fiction to advocate against modern forces impinging on her cultural subjectivity.

At the height of her literary career in the mid-to-late 1920s, Julia Peterkin Julia Peterkin (b. Julia Mood, October 31 1880, Laurens County, South Carolina—d. Lang Syne Plantation, near Fort Motte, South Carolina, August 1961) was an American fiction writer.

Her father was a physician, of whom she was the youngest of four children.
 ranked among the nation's foremost "black" writers because of her alleged "realistic" representation of the Gullahs, the black people who lived and worked at Lang Syne lang·syne also lang syne   Scots
adv.
Long ago; long since.

n.
Time long past; times past.



[Scots lang syne, from Middle English lang sine : long, lang
 Plantation, her home in Sumter, South Carolina Sumter (IPA: /ˈsʌmp.tə/ or /ˈsʌmp.tɚ/) is a city in and the county seat of Sumter CountyGR6 . (4) While contemporary scholars no longer (mis)take this white writer for "black," they still largely follow in the steps of H. L. Mencken, likely Peterkin's first critical reader, in placing her among American Realists, because as Mencken observed, she sought to deal "realistically, and yet in fine sympathy" with the lives of black people (My Life 373). (5)

I depart from this long-standing viewpoint, however, and maintain that Peterkin's writing should be read through a modernist, rather than a realist, lens because the "truths" represented in her work reveal as much about her status as a white modern southern plantation mistress struggling in the immediate South Carolina South Carolina, state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures


Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2000) 4,012,012, a 15.
 context of the political and social realities of early 20th-century America as they do about her black subjects' collective status--both literal and fictive fic·tive  
adj.
1. Of, relating to, or able to engage in imaginative invention.

2. Of, relating to, or being fiction; fictional.

3. Not genuine; sham.
. From this perspective, I draw from Paul Gilroy Paul Gilroy (born February 16, 1956) is a Professor at the London School of Economics.

Born in the East End of London to Guyanese and English parents (his mother was Beryl Gilroy).
 in introducing modernity and "the problems posed by the relationship of capitalism, industrialization industrialization

Process of converting to a socioeconomic order in which industry is dominant. The changes that took place in Britain during the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and 19th century led the way for the early industrializing nations of western Europe and
, and democracy to the emergence and consolidation of systematic race-thinking" into Peterkin's aesthetic and political purvey pur·vey  
tr.v. pur·veyed, pur·vey·ing, pur·veys
1. To supply (food, for example); furnish.

2. To advertise or circulate.
 (55). Her technical apparati reconstruct and ultimately endorse a modern plantation economy This article or section may deal primarily with the U.S. and may not present a worldwide view. , the structural paradigm within which she negotiated political, personal, and rhetorical conflicts between her status and her responses to black poverty, black migration, white terrorism, and white demagoguery Demagoguery
Hague, Frank

(1876–1956) corrupt mayor of Jersey City, N. J., for 30 years. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 1173]

Long, Huey P.

(1893–1935) infamous “Kingfish” of Louisiana politics. [Am. Hist.
. Troubled by an uneasy struggle to "humanize hu·man·ize  
tr.v. hu·man·ized, hu·man·iz·ing, hu·man·iz·es
1. To portray or endow with human characteristics or attributes; make human: humanized the puppets with great skill.

2.
" her black subjects while also benefiting from their proscription, Peterkin's writing reveals the contradiction in her endorsement of the very material conditions that deprived black Americans of equal opportunity and protection under the law well into the latter half of the twentieth century. In short, both the technique and principle of Peterkin's fiction informs our understanding of her politics as modernist, not realist, in orientation.

Evidence that Peterkin lived close to black people over the course of her life may explain why Mencken's observation about her rhetorical objectives remains firmly ensconced en·sconce  
tr.v. en·sconced, en·sconc·ing, en·sconc·es
1. To settle (oneself) securely or comfortably: She ensconced herself in an armchair.

2.
 in Peterkin scholarship. Despite inconsistencies and errors in available biographical data, it appears certain that Peterkin's relation to Gullah culture began almost at birth. Julia Peterkin was born Julia Mood in 1880. Just six months before her second birthday, her mother died, and a Gullah woman, whom Peterkin fondly referred to as "Maum Patsy," took charge of her upbringing. (Maum Patsy remained her primary care provider even after Peterkin's father remarried and sent her to live with her grandmother.) The Gullahs, a term used to refer both to the language and culture of the group of (former) African slaves who lived along the Carolina and Georgia coasts, remained a relatively homogenous homogenous - homogeneous  group well into the twentieth century, largely escaping the culturally deracinating effects of dispersion among Americans of African descent. Maum Patsy taught Peterkin the Gullah language The Gullah language (Sea Island Creole English, Geechee) is a creole language spoken by the Gullah people (also called "Geechees"), an African American population living on the Sea Islands and the coastal region of the U.S. states of South Carolina and Georgia. ; and, according to according to
prep.
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

3.
 many of Peterkin's relatives, she learned to speak Gullah as fluently as she spoke ostensibly os·ten·si·ble  
adj.
Represented or appearing as such; ostensive: His ostensible purpose was charity, but his real goal was popularity.
 standard English Stan·dard English  
n.
The variety of English that is generally acknowledged as the model for the speech and writing of educated speakers.

Usage Note: People who invoke the term Standard English
. Thus, in 1903 when she married William Peterkin and moved from Columbia to Sumter, South Carolina, she was no stranger to the values, rituals, and traditions of the black hands who lived and worked at Lang Syne Plantation. They were all Gullah descendants.

At different times, Peterkin identified herself as a plantation mistress, farmer, housekeeper, wife, mother, or gardener in a conscious effort to downplay her role as writer. (6) When pressed about her writing, however, Peterkin did not deny that her primary objective was to recount the Gullahs' experiences. In a September 1923 letter to Emily Clark Emily Clark was an English novelist of the 18th century. She believed herself to be the great-granddaughter of Theodore Stephen, Baron von Neuhof, though may well have been mistaken. , for example, in the wake of white South Carolinians' hostile reactions to her early work, Peterkin tried to justify the focus of her writing and to delineate her position toward her black subjects. (7) "I mean to present these people in a patient struggle with fate," she insists, "and not in any race conflict at all" (219). In a later letter to Joel Spingarn, she builds upon her objectives as she marvels at the favorable review of her work by black artists and critics in New York City New York City: see New York, city.
New York City

City (pop., 2000: 8,008,278), southeastern New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River. The largest city in the U.S.
 in spite of the persistence of white rage closer to home:
   When I found the very people on
   whom I had counted for sympathy
   here in reading my book, all upset and
   indignant with me, not even indifferent
   but quite angry, then I thought,
   "The negroes may hate me too!" But
   they seem to understand my intention
   better than the whites in many cases.
   This pleases me greatly. I had no intention
   of doing anything that could be
   construed as propaganda. I wanted to
   record my impressions of people who
   seemed interesting to me. Doing it
   gave me much pleasure, and I felt that
   I was quite within my rights in spending
   my time so. (8)


In an interview with Dale Warren conducted just as Black April was enjoying critical and popular success among black and white audiences alike, Peterkin expands her agenda, limning her creative impulse in a tenor more existential than altruistic:
   I write ... to get rid of the things that
   disturb me. I know it sounds peculiar
   to you, but that is the reason. On the
   plantation I am very close to life. It is
   all about me--several hundred
   negroes, in fact. It's their lives that I've
   known. I have seen sickness and death
   and superstition and frenzy and
   desire. My eyes have looked on horror
   and misery. And these things have
   stayed with me and upset me. I have
   had to get rid of them, so I have written
   them out. It is really quite simple.
   ("Plantation Family" 1)


These passages embody Peterkin's most direct commentary on her art and audience. First, they position black people at the core of her aesthetic vision. Second, they define black people, Peterkin's "subjects," in abstract as well as raw terms of human existence. Third, they register Peterkin's anxieties over white southern misinterpretation of her work, along with her awareness of a responsive black literary and intellectual community outside of the South. Finally, they connect Peterkin's personal life as plantation mistress to her public persona as writer and trace a flow from these identities to her subjects (black people) and their mutual southern society. In these passages, the motives and methods of self- and artistic development crucially coalesce co·a·lesce  
intr.v. co·a·lesced, co·a·lesc·ing, co·a·lesc·es
1. To grow together; fuse.

2. To come together so as to form one whole; unite:
 to reveal a personal and professional psychology manufactured in terms of Peterkin's opinion--rather than a realistic representation--of black people and black culture and their influence on her life as a white southern woman. The critic should not fail to miss this point, yet few--if any--examiners of Peterkin's life and writings have acknowledged or endeavored to explore its multiple implications. The implication that this essay centrally investigates warrants consideration both of Peterkin's relation to Mencken, whom she once identified as America's "best critic," and of Peterkin's self-positioning in relation to "her" black "subjects."

Mencken's commentary on the South and his support of many southern writers in the early 1920s have been widely seen as instrumental in launching the Southern Renaissance The Southern Renaissance was the reinvigoration of American Southern literature that began in the 1920s and 1930s with the appearance of writers such as William Faulkner, Caroline Gordon, Katherine Anne Porter, Allen Tate, Tennessee Williams, and Robert Penn Warren, among others. . (9) Many critics have intimated that Peterkin, among other pioneers of the South's "cultural awakening," began writing to challenge Mencken's famous assertion in "The Sahara of the Bozart" (1920) that the region was an intellectual and cultural vacuum The expression cultural vacuum refers to the state of an absence of anything cultural. It can refer to an individual, a place or town or a whole country. For example "our local cinema is a cultural vacuum". . (10) It seems that it is precisely because this essay so largely shaped public perceptions of the South that scholars have not questioned why Peterkin pursued Mencken's opinion of her work. If favorably inclined, Mencken could have the greatest influence in promoting her material and establishing her career. Furthermore, if part of her objective in writing was to counter Mencken's attack on the South, then Peterkin's accomplishment would serve the dual purpose of self-promotion and regional redemption. But if these were Peterkin's goals--and I submit that, in part, they were--how could representing Gullah people, whom she herself once characterized as "persistently ignorant" and "pitifully improvident im·prov·i·dent  
adj.
1. Not providing for the future; thriftless.

2. Rash; incautious.



im·provi·dence n.
 and wasteful," Gullah experiences, which so disturbed her, and Gullah culture, which, near the culmination of her writing career, she described as vibrant but unrefined and fleeting (Roll Jordan, Roll 9, 23), how could they work toward the achievement of her goals? To elucidate Peterkin's strategies, I shift attention from "The Sahara of the Bozart" to one of Mencken's more obscure works, "Groping grope  
v. groped, grop·ing, gropes

v.intr.
1. To reach about uncertainly; feel one's way: groped for the telephone.

2.
 in Literary Darkness" (1920). (11)

In this piece, written in the same year as "The Sahara of the Bozart," a key argument that Mencken advances about southern culture resounds in his evaluation of black literature. Mencken concludes that black writers have not yet produced enduring work, citing "race" consciousness and reactionism as, on one hand, vitiating black attempts at "serious" and "realistic" creative expression and, on the other hand, reducing them to melodrama and propaganda ("The Negro" 320). He holds white Americans accountable for black literary pre-occupations, tacitly limning southern whites as particular culprits:
   The white man, even in the South,
   knows next to nothing of the inner life
   of the negro. The more magnificently
   he generalizes, the more his ignorance
   is displayed. What the average
   Southerner believes about the negroes
   who surround him is chiefly nonsense.
   His view of them is moral and indignant,
   or, worse still, sentimental and
   idiotic. The great movements and aspirations
   that stir them are quite beyond
   his comprehension; in many cases he
   does not even hear of them. (320-21)


"What we need," Mencken deduces, "is a realistic picture of this inner life of the negro by one who sees the race from within--a self-portrait as vivid and accurate as Dostoyevsky's portrait of the Russian or Thackeray's of the Englishman" [321]. In painting this picture, the artist should adhere to adhere to
verb 1. follow, keep, maintain, respect, observe, be true, fulfil, obey, heed, keep to, abide by, be loyal, mind, be constant, be faithful

2.
 the following formula: "The action should be kept within the normal range of negro experience. It should extend over a long enough range of years to show some development in character and circumstance. It should be presented against a background made vivid by innumerable small details." In closing, Mencken predicts that "the negro author who makes such a book will dignify dig·ni·fy  
tr.v. dig·ni·fied, dig·ni·fy·ing, dig·ni·fies
1. To confer dignity or honor on; give distinction to: dignified him with a title.

2.
 American literature American literature, literature in English produced in what is now the United States of America. Colonial Literature


American writing began with the work of English adventurers and colonists in the New World chiefly for the benefit of readers in
 and accomplish more for his race than a thousand propagandists and theorists. He will force the understanding that now seems so hopeless. He will blow up nine-tenths of the current poppycock pop·py·cock  
n.
Senseless talk; nonsense.



[Dutch dialectal pappekak : pap, pap (from Middle Dutch pappe, perhaps from Latin pappa, food) + kak,
" (321).

Regardless of whether Peterkin read this essay, the depth to which the content and form of Black April, Scarlet Sister Mary, and Bright Skin address Mencken's observations is highly suggestive (especially given that Peterkin sought his approval and assistance). The central setting for the three novels is Blue Brook Plantation, and each novel's central characters are black. All reside at Blue Brook, and all have minimal if any interaction with white subjects in the narrative framework. The plantation owners are conveniently, though creatively, "on vacation" at the start of the novels, and each story concludes as the black residents of Blue Brook prepare for the owners' return. Time is measured primarily in seasons, so the calendar year remains unknown. The dialogues, activities, and dispositions of the novels' central characters, however, enable us to speculate that, though they live on a plantation, they are not slaves but paid workers. The day-to-day or "normal range" of the characters' experiences are mapped, with profligacy Profligacy
See also Debauchery, Lust, Promiscuity.

Arrowsmith, Martin

simultaneously engaged to Madeline and Leona. [Am. Lit.: Arrowsmith]

Bellaston, Lady

wealthy profligate; keeps Tom as gigolo. [Br. Lit.
, philandering, and promiscuity Promiscuity
See also Profligacy.

Anatol

constantly flits from one girl to another. [Aust. Drama: Schnitzler Anatol in Benét, 33]

Aphrodite

promiscuous goddess of sensual love. [Gk. Myth.
 exhibited as common registries among Blue Brook inhabitants
:This article is about the video game. For Inhabitants of housing, see Residency
Inhabitants is an independently developed commercial puzzle game created by S+F Software. Details
The game is based loosely on the concepts from SameGame.
. Everyone works. Everyone plays. Education matters to only a few of the elderly folks' children; they go off to acquire the diploma but often return and become reintegrated into a community where good ham-boning, quilting quilting, form of needlework, almost always created by women, most of them anonymous, in which two layers of fabric on either side of an interlining (batting) are sewn together, usually with a pattern of back or running (quilting) stitches that hold the layers , and sermonizing are more appreciated.

The principal narrator NARRATOR. A pleader who draws narrs serviens narrator, a sergeant at law. Fleta, 1. 2, c. 37. Obsolete.  in each novel is articulated to the plantation system, though also somehow outside of the system. Restricted and omniscient om·nis·cient  
adj.
Having total knowledge; knowing everything: an omniscient deity; the omniscient narrator.

n.
1. One having total knowledge.

2. Omniscient God.
 points of view merge to tell each story. Commentary on the plantation community's traditions and beliefs is interspersed within the narrative proper, which ultimately vacillates between acculturating and displacing the "outsider" perspective.

Given these novels' form and content, it seems of some consequence that Mencken's prediction in "Groping in Literary Darkness" eventually fits Peterkin who, as has already been noted, was considered among the foremost "black" US writers at the height of her career and among the nation's most accomplished realists. Peterkin's response to the former distinction was loaded. "If it were not that I am a blond," she wrote to Carl Sandburg in March 1925, "I think an effort would be made to prove that I am half black. Maybe I am spiritually," she concluded. In others'--and her own--opinion, therefore, her writing convincingly undercut Mencken's testimony that white people know nothing of the "inner life" of blacks. Moreover, the sum of these details becomes crucial motivating evidence of Peterkin's creative psychology, the framework surrounding her novels' formal and stylistic dimensions, and their interaction with her personal politics. If we suppose that Peterkin wrote with "Literary Gropings" in mind, or at least with similar sentiments in mind, we understand at least two of her motives for making black people her subject. Mencken had helped open the literary market for a "realistic" representation of black culture and black life and covertly challenged white southern Americans to provide the goods. But to speak of Peterkin's choice of "subject" as strictly opportunistic would ignore the added influence of Peterkin's subjectivity on her relation to and representation of black culture and her sensibilities as a modern plantation mistress. In "Seeing Things Seeing Things may refer to:
  • Hallucinations where someone sees things that are not actually present
  • Seeing Things (poetry), a collection of poems published by Seamus Heaney in 1991.
  • Seeing Things (TV series), a Canadian television series which aired in the 1980s.
," Peterkin's most widely referenced but little dissected philosophical piece, Peterkin herself registers these sensibilities.

Peterkin begins "Seeing Things" by revealing that early in her schooling as mistress of Lang Syne, she learned that "the plantation had never tolerated a mistress who could not 'dominize' it. Those too weak or too fearful to 'dominize,'" she observes, "had either been quickly crushed or taken away. There was no escape" (66). Peterkin does not reveal the origins of this legend. But she goes on to explain her reaction to the knowledge that the black people who work at Lang Syne are aware of the myth. (The modification of the verb "dominate" to "dominize" suggests the Gullah "voice" in this legend.) "When I found that some of the old Negroes were watching to see how I met the plantation's challenge, I couldn't disregard it. I tried to find out just what 'dominizing' meant, and at last I made out that in order to 'dominize,' the plantation mistress must achieve enough wisdom and courage to meet any occasion with composure and grace" (66). Although Peterkin does not explicitly note how she would secure this wisdom and courage, she intimates her source in the following series of reflections:
   I had always laughed at superstitions;
   but here, where people lived and
   died by them, they were hard to
   ignore, and an uneasiness that was
   close kin to fear began stirring deep
   down in my heart. What must I do?
   How could I find out what I needed to
   know?

   I soon discovered that the ability to
   see is an acquirement. It takes skill to
   mark differences between things that
   look just alike, and to make out distinctions
   between forms that are very
   close kin. To learn how to do it
   requires time and patience, and not
   only a keen wish to know about things
   themselves but also to know how all
   things are bound together into one
   common whole.

   Our individual worlds are made up
   of things we perceive, and no two of us
   ever see things alike. The impressions
   given us by our senses may be accurate
   or false; they may be a record of
   absolute truth, or a jumbled confusion
   of mistakes; yet, whatever they are, the
   sum of them constitutes for us the only
   information we can ever have concerning
   the particular world we live in. No
   two of us live in the same world. We
   must each make our own environment
   and mold our individual universe, and
   the only material we have to use for this
   purpose is what our senses have gathered
   for us. There is no way out of it. All
   well-being depends on seeing things.
   The more we see clearly, the more interesting
   is the exclusive world that we
   must make for ourselves. (66-67)


Taken out of the context in which Peterkin expresses them, these reflections may seem rather abstract. But the politics of Peterkin's position and objective as well as her perception of black expectations enable one to envisage a specific aspect of southern history that clarifies her professed anxieties and resolutions. Much like the mistresses of large antebellum plantations, Peterkin must firmly manage Lang Syne's home and hands, requiring her--in the words of a former slave--to know "ever'thing dat am gwine gwine  
v. Chiefly Southern & South Midland U.S.
A present participle of go1.



[African American Vernacular English, alteration of going.]
 on" (Mellon 195). This requirement, in part, compels Peterkin to gain as much information as she can about the inner and outer workings of black people's lives. Hence, she positions herself among them to learn their habits, their customs, their beliefs, their morals, their likes and dislikes. In the process of gathering this information, she makes discoveries about the people she observes as well as about herself, which ultimately temper her modernism.

She learns first that penetrating the depth of superficial appearance requires not only keen observation but also a willingness to suspend expectation and presumption so that concrete, unexpected knowledge can emerge. She acknowledges the effort it takes to neutralize her prejudices in order to recognize black people's humanity and individuality, the diversity and richness of their culture, and the wisdom and courage that their experiences have produced. She learns further that concepts of "reality" and "truth" may mask perception's ability to confirm and distort how we see ourselves in isolation and in relation to the people and forces that surround us. She discovers that our perceptions govern and reproduce over space and time the ways we behave. Here, perhaps, we are invited to read Peterkin's tacit condemnation of tradition and history in that both undermine the terms and conditions that construct them. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, both are subject to perception. As a target (as woman) and perpetuator (as southern white aristocratic) of tradition and history, Peterkin evinces a felt sense of betrayal and guilt in light of her revised perspective on black people and black culture. Still, Peterkin's final analysis complicates her recognition of the operations of perception. She concludes that because we are governed by our perceptions, we are charged to tutor our senses to the degree that they enable us to bring order and purpose to our individual existence (a modernist impulse). But because "no two of us live in the same world," the process of forging our individual existence may impinge on the existences of others (as in high modernist formulations on history, tradition, race, class, gender, human sexuality This article is about human sexual perceptions. For information about sexual activities and practices, see Human sexual behavior.
Generally speaking, human sexuality is how people experience and express themselves as sexual beings.
, and so on). In the end it seems we do have a hand in determining how we will live and view the world about us. But the premium we place on our personal lives may compel us to negotiate, even repress re·press
v.
1. To hold back by an act of volition.

2. To exclude something from the conscious mind.
, sound perception--for example, our sense of right and wrong--to the detriment of others (resulting in US slavery and the Era of Jim Crow Jim Crow

Negro stereotype popularized by 19th-century minstrel shows. [Am. Hist.: Van Doren, 138]

See : Bigotry
, among other crimes against humanity).

Once she recognizes the historical constitution of the plantation mistress, Peterkin elects to reproduce it through her own activities. This determination underscores her strategic conscription conscription, compulsory enrollment of personnel for service in the armed forces. Obligatory service in the armed forces has existed since ancient times in many cultures, including the samurai in Japan, warriors in the Aztec Empire, citizen militiamen in ancient  in the myth of (white) Southern Womanhood. Although the construct's oppressive influence on the lives of southern women has been widely documented, Peterkin's philosophical writings indicate that she actually capitalized on the myth, using it to gain access to herself as agent in relation to black people and purchasing power Purchasing Power

1. The value of a currency expressed in terms of the amount of goods or services that one unit of money can buy. Purchasing power is important because, all else being equal, inflation decreases the amount of goods or services you'd be able to purchase.

2.
 with it through silence in relation to (white) men. (12) We can, thus, speculate that as the development of a black cultural center away from the South encroached on her status as Lang Syne's mistress, Peterkin's negotiation and mediation of her position as "realist" writer of black experiences grew increasingly self-conscious and self-serving.

Although the mass migration of black people from the South to other parts of the country did not accelerate until around 1910, southern historians were recording its impact on the region as early as 1895 (Meriwether). Various developments urged black South Carolinians to mark their exodus in larger numbers than migrants from any other southern state.

In his examination of the development of post-bellum social structure in a South Carolina town, O. Vernon Burton points out that, though the state's black population was diversely tied to the land as owners, renters, croppers, and farm laborers, a disproportionate number worked for wages. Consequently, most black South Carolinians lacked the financial stability and access to opportunities for economic self-sufficiency that land ownership and tenantry ten·ant·ry  
n.
1. Tenants considered as a group.

2. The condition of being a tenant; tenancy.


tenantry
Noun

Old-fashioned tenants collectively

 afforded their white peers ("Development" 765-67). At the height of the agricultural depression in the South, South Carolina's black population declined by 50 percent, making whites the state's majority for the first time in over a century. Though the boll weevil boll weevil or cotton boll weevil (bōl), cotton-eating weevil, or snout beetle, Anthonomus grandis. Probably of Mexican or Central American origin, it appeared in Texas about 1892 and spread to most cotton-growing  indiscriminately arrived and crippled cotton production throughout the region, black South Carolinians-mostly farm laborers rather than owners--predictably appear to have suffered the most economic hardship. A decade-long outbreak of tuberculosis that was linked to the economic crisis of the 1920s also seems to have wreaked great havoc in South Carolina's black communities. (13)

Across the South, but particularly in South Carolina, violent white backlash Noun 1. white backlash - backlash by white racists against black civil rights advances
whitelash

backlash - an adverse reaction to some political or social occurrence; "there was a backlash of intolerance"
 against (majority) black-led initiatives to unionize and lobby for fairer wages and employee benefits stymied labor-class progress, maintaining a veritable antebellum southern infrastructure throughout Reconstruction and for several decades after. The political rise of Ben Tillman, launched in 1885, further constricted con·strict  
v. con·strict·ed, con·strict·ing, con·stricts

v.tr.
1. To make smaller or narrower by binding or squeezing.

2. To squeeze or compress.

3.
 South Carolina's black population. As governor, he promoted legislation that imposed a literacy test Literacy Test refers to the government practice of testing the literacy of potential citizens at the federal level, and potential voters at the state level. The federal government first employed literacy tests as part of the immigration process in 1917.  on all voters. After revisions to the state's constitution--authored by Tillman himself--passed in 1890, public school expenditures for black students in South Carolina decreased from little to almost nothing. Jim Crow laws Jim Crow laws, in U.S. history, statutes enacted by Southern states and municipalities, beginning in the 1880s, that legalized segregation between blacks and whites. The name is believed to be derived from a character in a popular minstrel song.  segregating the state's transportation systems and public facilities all passed under Tillman's regime. Between 1890 and 1898, race riots This is a list of race riots by country. Australia
  • Burrangong (1860-1861) - Lambing Flat riots
  • Broome (1905,1914,1920) - Broome riots
  • Redfern (2004) - Redfern riots
  • Palm Island (2004) - Palm Island death in custody riot
 in South Carolina counties resulted in 16 documented lynchings of blacks. The 1910 gubernatorial election of Cole Blease, who endorsed lynching, provided white violence as a means of black political and social sanction. (14)

Undoubtedly, Peterkin was aware of the developments and events that agitated ag·i·tate  
v. ag·i·tat·ed, ag·i·tat·ing, ag·i·tates

v.tr.
1. To cause to move with violence or sudden force.

2.
 white antagonism and black unrest, and catapulted South Carolina into cross-cultural mayhem before and after blacks began to leave the state in large numbers. For example, the much-anticipated release of D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation--based on Thomas Dixon's infamous novel, The Clansman (1905)--in 1915 met with equal favor among critical and popular white South Carolinian audiences (Moore 30-40). Cries for equal opportunity among disgruntled dis·grun·tle  
tr.v. dis·grun·tled, dis·grun·tling, dis·grun·tles
To make discontented.



[dis- + gruntle, to grumble (from Middle English gruntelen; see
 black veterans of World War I spawned the race riots of 1919 that began in Charleston and spread to most of the country's largest cities. The 1925 self-defense killing of Aiken's white sheriff--small-town Aiken was only 50 miles west of Peterkin's home in Fort Motte--by members of a rural black family resulted in the mob-led execution and lynching of several of the "accused" family members a year later. (15) Even in correspondence with Mencken and Sandburg, Peterkin early marks her fear of Ku Klux Klan Ku Klux Klan (k' klŭks klăn), designation mainly given to two distinct secret societies that played a part in American history, although other less important groups have also used  retaliation RETALIATION. The act by which a nation or individual treats another in the same manner that the latter has treated them. For example, if a nation should lay a very heavy tariff on American goods, the United States would be justified in return in laying heavy duties on the manufactures and  against her or members of her family for her unconventional portrayals of black and white South Carolinians. (16) Yet Peterkin's fictional accounts of Lang Syne's socio-economic infrastructure in Black April, Scarlet Sister Mary, and Bright Skin betray little to no sensibility of South Carolina's actual cultural climate and the imminent threat Imminent threat is a standard criterion in international law, developed by Daniel Webster, for when the need for action is "instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.  (and effects) of white violence.

To varying degrees Black April, Scarlet Sister Mary, and Bright Skin open by penetrating the consciousness of character and place at Blue Brook plantation, the site of the three novels' primary action. The link between psychological and physical movement--and removal--at the beginnings of Black April and Bright Skin evokes patterns of repetition between these two novels whereby characters unfamiliar with many or all of Blue Brook's mores enjoy symbolic and actual freedom of mobility about the plantation. The process of learning Blue Brook's culture in these two novels reproduces it from one generation to the next. By contrast, in Scarlet Sister Mary the link between psychological and physical movement evokes patterns of containment whereby characters familiar with Blue Brook's mores secure symbolic and actual freedom of mobility about the plantation by unlearning its culture. This process also facilitates containment. At the outset of the three novels, the conventions of autobiography and ethnography merge to enact the trope trope  
n.
1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.

2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.
 of mobility by which Peterkin immerses herself in black plantation culture. The novelist seems determined to understand that culture, to control better the influence of black progressivism on her life. (17) In Black April a struggle takes center stage between emic (black/insider) and etic (white/outsider) perspectives to determine "meaning" at the site of discreet moments of intracultural communication about plantation order and politics. In Scarlet Sister Mary, eric power structures encroach upon Verb 1. encroach upon - to intrude upon, infringe, encroach on, violate; "This new colleague invades my territory"; "The neighbors intrude on your privacy"
intrude on, obtrude upon, invade
 Blue Brook citizens to exercise greater authority over black individual growth and cultural development. In Bright Skin emic forces fight back, increasing the psychological and the physical spaces between black and white cultures in ways that, for the first time, escape Peterkin's authority.

The earliest event that we learn about in Black April is the birth of April's illegitimate son Breeze on Sandy Island, a dilapidated plantation located close to fecund fe·cund
adj.
Capable of producing offspring; fertile.
 Blue Brook. Details of locale initially explain why Breeze is removed from his birthplace to live with Big Sue at his father's plantation. As Big Sue explains to Breeze's mother, "I cooks at de Big House. An' no matter if de buckra Buck´ra

n. 1. A white man; - a term used by negroes of the African coast, West Indies, etc.
a. 1. White; white man's; strong; good; as, buckra yam, a white yam s>.
 is at Blue Brook or up-North whe' dey dey  
n.
1. Used formerly as the title of the governor of Algiers before the French conquest in 1830.

2. Used formerly as the title for rulers of the states of Tunis and Tripoli.
 stays most o' de time, I has all de victuals an' money I wants. I has more'n I kin use. It's de Gawd's truth. You'll sho' have sin, if you don' give me dat boy to raise" (44). Shortly thereafter, a second and third motive are linked to her desire to rear Breeze. "I'll train em good," she insists. "I'll fatten fat·ten  
v. fat·tened, fat·ten·ing, fat·tens

v.tr.
1. To make plump or fat.

2. To fertilize (land).

3.
 em up. I'll learn em to have manners. Dis same boy might git to be foreman at Blue Brook yet. E comes from dat foreman breed.... April's de foreman at Blue Brook, an' e'll help me raise Breeze. E tol' me so las' night" (44-45). The intimation that April seeks in Breeze a ready successor to his position as plantation foreman and that he charges Big Sue to assume partial responsibility for his training supports a narrative development centered upon Breeze's acculturation acculturation, culture changes resulting from contact among various societies over time. Contact may have distinct results, such as the borrowing of certain traits by one culture from another, or the relative fusion of separate cultures.  to Blue Brook plantation. Unlike the majority of Blue Brook's black constituency, Breeze mediates field and house space under Big Sue and April's tutelage TUTELAGE. State of guardianship; the condition of one who is subject to the control of a guardian. . What he learns over the course of the novel is seemingly designed to prepare and empower him in the end to assume authority over the lives and conditions of the plantation's black subjects. Here, we are invited to see how aspects of Breeze's education in Black April parallel the role that education plays in Peterkin's own life once she becomes mistress of Lang Syne. The link between Breeze's limited knowledge and the omniscient narrator's consciousness further buttresses the correspondence between these processes. As the only perspectives through which considerable depth of information and characterization is presented, Breeze's psychology merges with that of the narrator's to process, order, and evaluate what they observe of plantation life.

Initially, both uncritically bear witness to a wealth of cultural configurations that reveal the pragmatism, resilience, and diverse personalities of Blue Brook's citizens. "Thick description" of these dynamics highlights the processes through which the characters build and maintain strong cultural ties. In the quilting session, for example, which constitutes one of the novel's earliest "ethnographic" scenes and Breeze's initial encounter with Blue Brook culture, ethical and social boundaries relax to facilitate utilitarian interests at Blue Brook. This process is further registered in Breeze's observations of the plantation's theistic the·ism  
n.
Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.



the
 orders. Breeze witnesses community members cultivating and practicing a syncretized religion whereby the performative per·for·ma·tive  
adj.
Relating to or being an utterance that peforms an act or creates a state of affairs by the fact of its being uttered under appropriate or conventional circumstances, as a justice of the peace uttering
 and transformative rites of conjuring and Judeo-Christianity merge to promote communal cohesion, ancestral veneration, and a symbiosis symbiosis (sĭmbēō`sĭs), the habitual living together of organisms of different species. The term is usually restricted to a dependent relationship that is beneficial to both participants (also called mutualism) but may be extended to  between humans and nature that invests greater spiritual authority in individuals than institutions. This cultural phenomenon is most evidenced in Maum Hannah's religious practices. Her habit of harmonizing her own brand of preaching with that of the Christian minister invokes the call-and-response pattern so central to conjuring rituals. Heir to the "string of charm beads [her] grandmother had brought all the way from Africa when she came on a slave ship," and cultivator cultivator, agricultural implement for stirring and pulverizing the soil, either before planting or to remove weeds and to aerate and loosen the soil after the crop has begun to grow. The cultivator usually stirs the soil to a greater depth than does the harrow.  of the source from which "the fires that burned in all the Quarter houses" generated, Maum Hannah is the oldest direct living connection the community has to its ancestral origins (18, 112). Therefore, it is of little wonder or consequence to church members that this matriarch inflects signs of African spirituality into the Christian liturgy Noun 1. Christian liturgy - the Christian worship services
liturgy - a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship

doxology - a hymn or verse in Christian liturgy glorifying God
.

That she is accustomed to "taking part in the service" in this way signals a key change in the ceremony marked by the "new" town preacher's objection to her behavior (186). Maum Hannah's initial oblivion to his admonitions and her subsequent rejection of his method of renewing the Ten Commandments Ten Commandments or Decalogue [Gr.,=ten words], in the Bible, the summary of divine law given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They have a paramount place in the ethical system in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  point to an apparent disjunction disjunction /dis·junc·tion/ (-junk´shun)
1. the act or state of being disjoined.

2. in genetics, the moving apart of bivalent chromosomes at the first anaphase of meiosis.
 between clergy and congregation that de-Africanized Christianity breeds. Its effects are importantly focalized through Breeze:
   Maum Hannah's head dropped, her
   chin was on her breast, her eyes were
   shut tight, her lips moving in whispers.
   Breeze could tell she was praying
   alone, quite apart from the preacher
   and the congregation which had
   strangely become two beings: one, a
   lone, black, shiny-skinned, shiny-eyed
   man in the pulpit, repeating God's
   commandments, in the high singsong,
   and clapping his hands for the people
   to respond; and the congregation, now
   knitted into a many-mouthed, manyhanded,
   many-eyed mass, that swayed
   and rocked like one body from side to
   side, crying to God in an agonized,
   "Do, Lawd, help us keep dis law!" A
   shrill voice screamed out of the rumbling
   body, "Hallelujah! I feel de sperit!"
   A chill crept over Breeze. He felt
   something strange himself. He couldn't
   hear his own voice in the flood of
   shouted praying, but he knew he was
   one with the rest. (188)


Considering Maum Hannah's withdrawal from the mockery that the church service becomes, and Breeze's awareness of his own involuntary contributions to that mockery, Susan Williams reads each as an omen, a signal of the declining influence of African traditions on central and sustaining elements of Blue Brook culture ("Foreword" xi). But the observation of a valuable cultural dynamic whose evolution has the potential to threaten the plantation order urges shifts in narrative development and characterization that not only renew Maum Hannah's authority but also unmask a social incentive for suppressing the pulse of Western influence encroaching on Blue Brook's black community. "Is you gone plum crazy, Breeze.)" Big Sue asks when he rises in church to follow his newly inspired religious inclinations. "You ain' got no business seekin'! If you miss an' find peace an' git religion you couldn' bat ball on Sunday wid li'l young Cap'n when he come! Not if you's a Christian!" (193). Capitulating to Big Sue's command, Breeze sits down and, thus, keeps change at bay. He takes a moment, however, to reflect on Big Sue's hypocrisy.
   Big Sue didn't care if he burned in
   Hell. Many a time she had told him
   how those wicked, hell-bent buckras
   spent Sundays in sin. Riding horses.
   Singing reels. Dancing and frolicking
   on God's day. Young Cap'n played
   ball, baseball, under the trees, on the
   Sabbath, just as if it were the middle of
   the week. Big Sue said God didn't like
   people to even pick a flower on
   Sunday. And now she wanted him to
   have sin right along with those brazen
   white people. (193)


In this passage, the convergence of free indirect and free direct discourses marks a fundamental maturation in Breeze's consciousness and status at Blue Brook from cultural observer/outsider to cultural critic/insider, and signals his mind-spirit divide from the consciousness of the novel's other central focalizer. Increasingly Breeze registers an awareness of the link between black cultural values and practices and the broader social dynamics Social dynamics is the study of the ability of a society to react to inner and outer changes and deal with its regulation mechanisms. Social dynamics is a mathematically inspired approach to analyse societies, building upon systems theory and sociology.  of plantation life that the outsider perspective governs.

Crucially, in this frame of mind he recalls Big Sue's attitudes toward education: "Big Sue said she had never bothered to learn to read and write. She didn't have any use for either.... The old people didn't believe in book learning. They thought learning signs and charms more important, and they discouraged having school. Learning magic would be better for [Breeze] than learning books" (123, 137). Black objection to education registered here does not lack historical grounding. In fact, for decades after the Civil War, high rates of illiteracy among members of many rural black communities reflected individual choice as well as lack of opportunity (Mellon 177). In Black April, however, "book-learning" is cast in the same disruptive light as de-Africanized Christianity because of its potential to undermine the plantation order. Nevertheless, unlike the narrative line of religion, the narrative line of education does not achieve closure by the end of Black April. Breeze's rejection of "God and the Devil" and final initiation into Blue Brook's community through sexual experimentation with Emma do little to squelch squelch  
v. squelched, squelch·ing, squelch·es

v.tr.
1. To crush by or as if by trampling; squash.

2.
 his curiosity about school or the words on a printed page (227, 304, 311). Thus, it seems that education in Scarlet Sister Mary effects a kind of continuity whereby this novel takes up the cause that Black April is unable to achieve.

In Scarlet Sister Mary, shifts in focalization fo·cal·ize  
tr. & intr.v. fo·cal·ized, fo·cal·iz·ing, fo·cal·iz·es
1. To adjust or come to a focus.

2. To bring or be brought to a focus; sharpen.

3.
 between omniscient and limited perspectives delve frequently into Mary's consciousness. Mary is the character whose "unschooling" begins when she abandons naive notions of love and marriage, and embarks on a journey toward self-discovery and spiritual renewal. As Daddy Cudjoe foretells: "You's young, honey. You ain't got much sense, but you'll learn better.... You can' nebber blongst to nobody, honey, an' nobody can' blongst to you. But Ki! Dat ain' reason fo cry! You breth come an' go might sweet when e free, but you strive fo hold era. Den e bitter!" (70) Mary's sexual and gender politics eventually position her at odds with the whole of Blue Brook's Christian and domestic communities. That the governing consciousness of the novel readily sanctions Mary's stance vis-a-vis Christianity is perfunctory per·func·to·ry  
adj.
1. Done routinely and with little interest or care: The operator answered the phone with a perfunctory greeting.

2. Acting with indifference; showing little interest or care.
; it merely echoes the theme central to the structure of Black April. However, the link between Mary's rejection of Christianity and domestication domestication

Process of hereditary reorganization of wild animals and plants into forms more accommodating to the interests of people. In its strictest sense, it refers to the initial stage of human mastery of wild animals and plants.
 adds dimension to the narrative approval Peterkin grants to Mary once she decides to renounce her wedding vows. Almost simultaneously, however, the narrative underwrites a reciprocity between Mary's acquired status within the plantation order that ultimately impedes black cultural progress.

Consider, for example, the scope of the authority Mary believes the love-charm affords her and what, in the end, that authority is predicated upon. When Mary believes she has conjured June, she wonders of his praise: "Did June mean all the things he was saying to her now? Did she look as young as a single girl? Did he think as much as he said? Her heart seemed to stop beating. Her breath was cut off" (99). Reassured of her desirability in her relationship with June, Mary is "able to laugh and dance and sing again, her flesh had got back its old smoothness, her old sadness and weariness and bitterness were left behind"; her renewed sexuality is now an extension of her mind, body, and spirit (105). Mary's newfound psychosexual psychosexual /psy·cho·sex·u·al/ (-sek´shoo-al) pertaining to the mental or emotional aspects of sex.

psy·cho·sex·u·al
adj.
Of or relating to the mental and emotional aspects of sexuality.
 identity also reformulates her attitudes toward men and women: "Thank God, she knew men at last, and she knew that not one of them is worth a drop of water that drains out of a woman's eye" (105). A perspective shift to stream-of-consciousness confirms Mary's opinion: "Men are too much alike, with ways too much the same. None is worth keeping, none worth a tear; and still each one is a little different from the rest; just different enough to make him worth finding out" (137). Women, on the other hand, "were all her rivals and competitors, except Maum Hannah"; but "certainly Maum Hannah was so old she could hardly be counted a woman. For she lived in another world.... To her, human men were no more than children who needed to be fed and encouraged and warmed and pitied" (119). What the women in her community fear most, Mary concludes, is "the power she had over their men ... whom she lured boldly and without shame" (122).

Reflecting on the source of her "power," Mary proudly observes: "That charm, old and worn as it was now, still stood by her faithfully. It had never failed her. She prized it and cherished it as if it were God's best gift instead of something that would send her to the bottomless pits of perdition" (122). It "did nothing but draw the men she liked to her, and hold them as long as she wanted them, no more than that" (123). Again she mentally notes the effect the love-charm has on her trinomial tri·no·mi·al  
adj.
1. Consisting of three names or terms, as a taxonomic designation.

2. Mathematics Consisting of three terms.

n.
1.
 existence: "Her flesh got back all its old smoothness, her body its old supple grace. She could laugh and sing while she worked. All her weariness left her, all her sadness and bitterness were gone, sorrow was far behind her" (122). Indeed, even when the community aggressively begins to condemn her actions, Mary's confidence is reassured when she gains a loyal ally in Buddha Ben: "When Mary first began sinning openly, Buddha Ben tried his best to stop her, then when he found that nothing he said made her change her ways, he began defending her and holding that whatever people crave to do is good for them to do. If Mary fed her children and clothed clothe  
tr.v. clothed or clad , cloth·ing, clothes
1. To put clothes on; dress.

2. To provide clothes for.

3. To cover as if with clothing.
 them and trained them to be brave-hearted, to work, and to have manners, that was enough to expect of her" (121).

Mary's character undoubtedly experiences a kind of re-invention that enables her to believe that she can "rule herself and her feelings" once she wrests both from Christianity and July's dominion (93). However, even Buddha Ben's defense of Mary intimates that the "self" she embraces is fashioned in exclusively sexual terms. Its life depends not only on Mary's willingness to use her body for psychospiritual gratification, but also on Mary's ability to secure ego-affirming responses from men and hostile reactions from women. In the end, it seems that Mary grants the body the authority over her mind and spirit that Christianity initially exercises. In Mary's case, we see readily that the danger of this body-mind-spirit connection is that it places promiscuity, rather than healthy sexuality, on a plane equal to religion. When we move beyond the effect that Mary's promiscuous lifestyle has on her personal and social condition, we see further the extended damage her attitude and behavior pose to other innocents.

Although Mary initially assures Maum Hannah that none "o [her] gals will walk straight in [her] tracks" (117), she eventually trains at least one of her daughters to follow her example. "It don't pay to love mens too much," she counsels Seraphine. "When a man finds out fo-true a 'oman is crazy bout em, he don' crave dat 'oman no mo. Dat's de very time e gwine crave some new 'oman altogedder. Gawd made mens so. It don' pay to love no one man too much. It's all right to like em. But don' never let yousef tink on one man all de time" (158). The moment in the novel when Mary offers her daughter this advice is crucial, for it comes upon the heels of Seraphine's return from school, a forlorn, new mother. In addition to reassuring Seraphine that she, like her mother, will survive abandonment and endure as a single parent, Mary guides her daughter to the "tracks," encouraging her to reproduce through her existence a pathology that is ultimately self- and culturally-destructive.

Once Seraphine returns to Blue Brook, she abandons all hope of completing her education and adopts the life of a plantation domestic. This course, no doubt, is pleasing to Mary, whose numerous offspring countervail coun·ter·vail  
v. coun·ter·vailed, coun·ter·vail·ing, coun·ter·vails

v.tr.
1. To act against with equal force; counteract.

2. To compensate for; offset.

v.intr.
 her tacit fear of being alone (107). However, the link between Mary's experiences, the advice she gives her daughter, and the changes that occur in Seraphine's status and motivation once she returns to Blue Brook discloses a greater narrative incentive governing Seraphine's condition. Deprived of an education and determined to follow her mother's example, Seraphine soon adopts the same attitude toward progress and plantation life that Mary claims shortly after July forsakes her. "If she had the heart," the narrator begins, "she would go away and leave everything, everybody. She could find work of some kind in the town, and yet," Mary's consciousness interjects, "this was home. She had known no other place in her life. The very earth here was a part of herself, and it held her so fast she could never leave it, no matter what came" (73). In spite of--perhaps, even, because of--the opportunities that removal from Blue Brook might afford her, Mary rests in harmony with this land, her "peaceful" position symbolic of the pastoral vision so central to the preservation of Peterkin's increasingly modernized plantation way of life. (18) The trouble here is not so much the naturalization naturalization, official act by which a person is made a national of a country other than his or her native one. In some countries naturalized persons do not necessarily become citizens but may merely acquire a new nationality.  of Mary's attitude toward the plantation prior to her psychospiritual transformation, but the narrative validation this vision seems to enjoy after she achieves "liberation."

The shift in narrative focus from Mary's conjugal Pertaining or relating to marriage; suitable or applicable to married people.

Conjugal rights are those that are considered to be part and parcel of the state of matrimony, such as love, sex, companionship, and support.
 condition, that is, her monogamous devotion, to her licentious li·cen·tious  
adj.
1. Lacking moral discipline or ignoring legal restraint, especially in sexual conduct.

2. Having no regard for accepted rules or standards.
 behavior after July leaves also registers a deeper penetration of Mary's attitude toward her environment. She ponders over and speaks candidly about Blue Brook's owners, about changes taking place on the plantation, and about the effect that both have on the lives of black people. Mary curses alike the hay-press, newspapers, and books now found at Blue Brook--all of which were made by white people. "Such things were dangerous," she insists (108). Seconding Big Boy's opinion that the hay-press is "a blind contraption made by white men," she calls into suspicion "what book-learning might do" to a person (107, 108). Indeed she doesn't discount Big Boy's observation that "so much book readin might be changed Seraphine from how e was" when he goes to town to see her and Seraphine does not respond to his call (135). In this spirit, Mary sounds much like the elders of Blue Brook who urge Breeze to read natural signs rather than the printed page. "Spoken words are safer," Mary observes. "They can cut and sting and beat down almost any enemy. They can bring tears or make people split their sides with laughter. Instead of reading all the time out of books and papers covered with printed words [one] would do better to learn how to read other things: sunrises, moons, sunsets, clouds and stars, faces and eyes.... Book-learning takes people's minds off more important things" (108).

Her aversion to learning as whites do is, perhaps, most intensely announced when she discovers that a new law will force plantation midwives to take a series of classes to receive training in new delivery procedures. "White people are curious things," she complains to Buddha Ben. "They pass laws Pass laws in South Africa were designed to segregate the population and were one of the dominant features of the country's apartheid system. Introduced in South Africa in 1923, they were designed to regulate movement of black Africans into urban areas.  no matter how fool the laws are, and put people in jail if those laws are not kept. People had come into the world over the same old road ever since Eve birthed Cain and Abel Cain and Abel

In the Hebrew scriptures, the sons of Adam and Eve. According to Genesis, Cain, the firstborn, was a farmer, and his brother Abel was a shepherd. Cain was enraged when God preferred his brother's sacrifice of sheep to his own offering of grain, and he murdered
, and now, everybody had to learn how to birth children a new way. It was enough to upset the whole world" (121). Her animosity toward white people who supplant traditional systems with laws is equally directed at black people who obey them: She "resented many of the ways and customs of the plantation people who never stopped to think about things, and accepted ideas and beliefs which were handed down to them, the same as they accepted the old houses where they were born and worked in the same old fields which their parents and grandparents grandparents nplabuelos mpl

grandparents grand nplgrands-parents mpl

grandparents grand npl
 had salted with sweat" (121). Mary does not, however, imagine removal from Blue Brook as a way to break its ideological power over its black constituency. Surveying the land and its history, she muses: "Black people used to make up a part of the plantation's wealth the same as the carriage and saddle horses with their well-rubbed, shining hides. They were valued according to their strength and sense. The weak and stupid were sold. Only the best were kept. A good thing" (138). These thoughts supplement and reinforce Mary's earlier attitude about the plantation and her "place" in its order. She identifies herself among its prized possessions, and she embraces it as her own.

That this gesture signals the culmination of Mary's journey toward self-actualization brings into focus a few vital points. First, it illuminates disparities between Peterkin's and Mary's gender and sexual politics, which nevertheless support the same plantation order. Second, it highlights a symmetrical, even symbiotic symbiotic /sym·bi·ot·ic/ (sim?bi-ot´ik) associated in symbiosis; living together.

sym·bi·ot·ic
adj.
Of, resembling, or relating to symbiosis.
 order among the novel's black women characters' faith and fecundity fecundity /fe·cun·di·ty/ (fe-kun´dit-e)
1. in demography, the physiological ability to reproduce, as opposed to fertility.

2. ability to produce offspring rapidly and in large numbers.
 that ground them to the land. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, it links formal education to all things "white," exposing at once "outsider" fear of black progressive values and methods for restraining them. In the end, it seems that Scarlet Sister Mary cultivates neither a sincere desire nor a viable means through which to escape plantation life. Thus the consciousness of this novel provides solid evidence of Peterkin's determination and ability to control the system and lives she governed at Lang Syne.

The importance of this creative achievement cannot be over-emphasized, for it underscores the tenacity with which Peterkin held onto her way of life. It also intimates the extremes to which she may have been willing to go to maintain that order. In addition to promoting black ignorance and female promiscuity, there is in Scarlet Sister Mary a pernicious patterning of black family division rested upon forced and willful removal of fathers from homes. This phenomenon harks back to the days of slavery, underscoring a linkage between antebellum and modern societies that continues to divide black communities today. But one cannot stop at reading the breadth of Peterkin's creative gesture as altogether proscriptive pro·scrip·tion  
n.
1. The act of proscribing; prohibition.

2. The condition of having been proscribed; outlawry.



[Middle English proscripcion, from Latin
. Her frequently expressed candor about the value of plantation society and black culture speaks volumes of her willingness to confront the privilege of her own subjectivity vis-a-vis black people, even if only to affirm it in the end. This fact bears renewed significance when we consider Peterkin's last novel, Bright Skin.

The continuity of setting and characterization across the three novels' openings invites comparison between Peterkin and Blue's consciousness that may at first seem difficult to make. Blue has neither the insight that enables Peterkin via Breeze to penetrate the depths of black cultural practices nor the confidence that empowers Peterkin via Mary to control the plantation's order. But when we consider the degree to which narrative development seems--almost to the very end--to escape Blue's consciousness, a reciprocity between his opening status, his lack of character, and Peterkin's perspective on black and plantation culture begins to materialize.

As in Black April, the character perspective most in accord with the governing narrative consciousness is that of an outsider to the plantation. Unlike Breeze's removal from Sandy Island, however, Blue's relocation to Blue Brook is more physically abrupt and psychologically disruptive. "Roused from sound sleep before dawn," Blue's father announces: "Wake up, son, an' put on you clothes. Me an' you is gwine off. Dis house ain' no decent place for we to stay in" (11). Without learning the details of his mother's transgression TRANSGRESSION. The violation of a law. , Blue discovers that the indecent condition into which his home has slipped is directly related to something she has done to his father. Determining that he will not abandon her, however, Blue assures his mother "I'll be back soon." But she silences his compassion with an announcement of her own: "I won' be here.... I'm gwine off my own self" (13). Her words later resonate in Fancy's flat assertion: "You Pa's gone an' left you" (3). At the outset of Bright Skin, Blue's character stands in striking opposition to any other abandoned character across the three novels precisely because he is a young boy forsaken for·sake  
tr.v. for·sook , for·sak·en , for·sak·ing, for·sakes
1. To give up (something formerly held dear); renounce: forsook liquor.

2.
 by his mother and father. Unlike Breeze, Blue is not sought out by a distant cousin. Unlike Big Sue and Mary, Blue lacks the fortitude of experience to sustain him after his mother and father leave. Thus the salience sa·li·ence   also sa·li·en·cy
n. pl. sa·li·en·ces also sa·li·en·cies
1. The quality or condition of being salient.

2. A pronounced feature or part; a highlight.

Noun 1.
 of Big Sue's words echoed in Fancy's claim--"I was wishin I had a boy-child to wait on me"--and Blue's father's counsel--"be mannersable, to mind what he was told"--runs shallow in the consciousness of a character who is unfairly matched in a war with rejection (36, 17).

The rejection that Blue faces at the novel's beginning becomes a likely extension of the rejection that Peterkin is forced to deal with once Lang Syne's constituency begins to "abandon" her. Despite the understanding and appreciation of black culture she eventually demonstrates, Peterkin must also accept the fact that she never really achieves "insider" status. Finally, Peterkin must acknowledge that in spite of her conviction and determination to sustain the plantation's order, Lang Syne can no longer contain a people whose history conveys their struggle to secure self-determining freedom and equality of opportunity. Thus Peterkin's modernism in Bright Skin is earmarked in a complex network of narrative lines: Blue's indoctrination in·doc·tri·nate  
tr.v. in·doc·tri·nat·ed, in·doc·tri·nat·ing, in·doc·tri·nates
1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.

2.
 into plantation culture; the interplay between etic observation of Blue Brook's socio-racial politics and emic analysis of slave history; and Cricket's maturation from a "no-nation bastard" to a New Negro This article or section needs copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone and/or spelling.
You can assist by [ editing it] now.
 (94).

The inclination to read Cricket's character as a descendent of tragic mulattos figured in literary history would not be unfounded. Throughout the novel she is distinguished and alienated from Blue Brook's black and white populations in color and status: "A bright skin ain' got no place in dis world. Black people don' want em an' white people won' own em" (94). Cricket herself frequently confirms her condition through lamentation--"You'd be down-in-de-heart too if you was a bright skin"--and pride--"I'm glad I ain' got em," she says of "blue gums," and "I ain' black like you," she charges when Blue intimates that she cannot bear a white baby (57, 67). There are, however, significant differences between the narrative developments that shape the consciousness of Cricket and other literary mulattos, differences that ultimately place her outside the "tragic" tradition and reinforce Bright Skin's modernist formation.

For example, in a series of events that recall cultural politics in Black April and Scarlet Sister Mary, Cricket is positioned as the target and perpetuator of attitudes and activities that revise scenes from Peterkin's earlier novels for rhetorical effect. We bear witness to a spontaneous hog-butchering ceremony in Bright Skin that, much like the sewing session in Black April, appears to provide an opportunity for examining collaboration between opposing communal fronts. Though the ritual strives to cultivate the same spirit of harmony and cooperation of the gathering at Maum Hannah's house, it ultimately sustains the mental caste that distinguishes field and house servants. In fact, it is not until Cun Hester, Cun Jule, and Uncle Ben finish cleaning the hogs that house hands--Aun Missie, Uncle Wes and Aun Fan--arrive to enjoy the fruits of field labor. Moreover, Aun Missie forbids Cricket to eat the pig-tails that she and Cooch and Toosio--field workers' children--are roasting because Cricket lacks the "strong insides" needed to digest them (167). In the end, therefore, the value of the ceremony depreciates along the class lines it reinforces.

The biases of class-consciousness gain greater registry in the "lessons" that Blue and Cricket learn about field workers and activities. "Sunday ain' no day to bat ball an' dat Quarters ain' no place for you," Aun Fan advises Blue in a mode significantly different from Big Sue's advice to Breeze. "De foreman's gran-boy ain' to run wid every common somebody," she concludes (48). "Dis Quarters is for field-hands," Cun Fred informs Cricket when she expresses interest in living there. "Would you pay a day's work (Naut.) the account or reckoning of a ship's course for twenty-four hours, from noon to noon.

See also: Day
 every week God sends for rent of a broke-down house? Not one o' you people ever jerked a hoe hoe, usually a flat blade, variously shaped, set in a long wooden handle and used primarily for weeding and for loosening the soil. It was the first distinctly agricultural implement. The earliest hoes were forked sticks.  or put dey hand on a plow" (53). Here, Cun Fred perpetuates a biased connection between degeneracy Degeneracy (quantum mechanics)

A term referring to the fact that two or more stationary states of the same quantum-mechanical system may have the same energy even though their wave functions are not the same.
 of home and occupation that he links to character in his assessment of Cricket's playmate: "Cooch don' come from decent people" (55). Aun Missie later echoes Fred's opinion when she lumps all field hands in the same corrupt category: "All those Quarter people were common. They quarreled over pigs and chickens, stole from one another, scandalized everybody. Rain or shine they had to do whatever Cun Fred said from raking pine straw pine straw
n. Chiefly Southern U.S.
Yellowed fallen pine needles.
 for the stables to scattering stable manure in the fields" (88). Again, Aun Missie reproduces negative opinions of field servants when she prevents Cricket from participating in any social activities with children from the Quarters. As the narrator points out, "Aun Missie never let Cricket go anywhere at night except prayer-meeting. She had to dance at home or not at all" (221). Initially, she does not even allow Cricket to go to school for fear she will adopt a field-mentality.

Aun Missie's (among other non-field workers') determination to condition Cricket's attitude toward field residents and activities underscores the fact that, like Blue's, Cricket's sense of Blue Brook mores is untutored. They are both in the process of "learning" culture. Whereas Blue's "learning" of these mores acclimatizes him to Blue Brook, Cricket's "learning" drives her away from the plantation to Harlem. We see evidence of this motivation in Cricket's revision of Blue Brook religion and the "mis-education" she seeks and secures from Man Jay and Cun Hester. (19)

Several scenes in the novel unfold in which Cricket participates in or observes religious ceremonies that distinguish her spiritual power and vision. For example, she chooses to contribute to Children Days at the church by reciting Psalm 23, and she so moves the congregation that she elicits from its members shouts and songs of praise (158). At Uncle Wes's funeral she responds to the rehearsed wails, howls, and death-cries of women mourners with chilling silence and austerity (175, 191, 194). She also nearly breaks the burying tradition by placing flowers of an inappropriate color on Uncle Wes's grave because he "ever loved ... white blossoms" (188). When the time comes Adv. 1. when the time comes - at the appropriate time; "we'll get to this question in due course"
in due course, in due season, in due time, in good time
 for community children seeking salvation to provide their testimony, Cricket shocks the crowd with the story of her awakening:
   Seems like I was dyin, an' I was awful
   scared. Big Pa come to drench me, but
   somebody pushed de bottle out his
   hand an' give me a glassful of medicine
   white same like milk.... Dat same
   somebody told me not to drink Big
   Pa's teas, neither take any kind o' medicine,
   long as I live.... I couldn' see
   em, but e talked like Uncle Wes....
   When I drank de medicine, two lil
   white baby chillen come. Dey had gold
   hair and dey skin was white like de
   sun ain' never shine on em. Dey fastened
   two sets o' white wings on my
   back.... Seems like Uncle Wes was
   squeezing his 'cordion, so I flewed by
   de music, but my feet was on de floor.
   ... De tune been Sallie Ann. (213)


When juxtaposed jux·ta·pose  
tr.v. jux·ta·posed, jux·ta·pos·ing, jux·ta·pos·es
To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.
 with Cooch's and Toosio's common and perhaps false testimonies, Cricket's honesty minimizes the humor in her vision. Indeed, the authenticity and value of her dream are confirmed when we realize that its principle figures and primary motive accomplish the task of converting Cricket's spirit. After the untimely deaths of Big Pa and Uncle Wes (the only two adults at Blue Brook with whom she shares genuine intimate connections), Cricket's self-confidence and motivation deplete de·plete
v.
1. To use up something, such as a nutrient.

2. To empty something out, as the body of electrolytes.
. Her dream suggests their collaborative effort to "nurture" her spirit back to vivacity and to assure her of their continuing protection. Moreover, the dream assures Cricket that she doesn't have to mourn with tears; she can express her sorrows through dance--the medium through which she best distinguishes her character. Thus Cricket's decision in the end to remove herself and her spirit from clerical scrutiny enacts the mis-education she aggressively begins to pursue after her awakening.

Peterkin first insinuates Cricket's desire to break with tradition and authority when the character defies Aun Missie's wishes and learns to read. Her earliest instructor is Man Jay, who later teaches Cricket how to write. As Man Jay tutors Cricket's intellect through standard education, he also leads her to unconventional knowledge sources. For example, Man Jay's mother Bina introduces Cricket to Old Blue, her ex-communicated grandfather who, upon returning to his ancestors' home, adopts the name "Reverend Africa" and eventually settles in Harlem as a preacher (56). Man Jay later assists Big Pa's memory through song when Cricket asks him to narrate the story of his father's reign in Taki. The events that Big Pa recalls cast his father en route to America, a survivor of the Middle Passage (135). It is ultimately Man Jay's collaboration with Cun Hester that solidifies Cricket's knowledge of her history and encourages her to revise her self- and cultural-images.

For days Blue watches from afar as Cun Hester and Cricket engage in deep conversation. He "wondered what those two talked about so much, for Cun Hester's mind tarried on what was over and gone. Maybe Cricket wanted to find out all about those Big House white people. What good would that do her? They were dead and gone" (224). Blue's observation is critical, here, in light of Cun Hester's early narration of her father's history: "My Daddy knew more about God an' Jesus dan any preacher ever was. My Daddy was wise. An' straight talkin too. E belonged to white people but e didn' let nobody fool him" (180). She goes on to revise several Bible stories A List of Bible stories is a list usually taken as referring to Bible stories. It may include one or more of the following lists:
  • List of Hebrew Bible stories (according to Judaism, also called the Old Testament by Christianity.
 such that they align white people with the Devil and black people with Christ. Indeed, she indicates that white people crucified Jesus because they did not want to sell the riches they accumulated as the Devil's constituents. When asked if she believed any white people were in Heaven, she responds, "Mighty few.... White people traded dey souls for dat fire an' food. Dey fetched black people to dis country an' learnt em sinful ways. White people has much to account for" (183). Although Blue (and readers) never learn exactly what Cricket and Cun Hester talk about, the narrative invites us to assume that Cun Hester inflects her racio-cultural politics in their discussion, for soon after her sessions with Cun Hester, Cricket expresses her desire to leave the plantation. "It ain' money I crave," she tells Blue. "I want to go off an' see somebody new" (231). She registers a deeper motive in a later comment: "If I stay on here ... nothin ain' ahead for me but to dry up an' get sour like Aun Missie" (233). Cricket's awareness of the pathology that plantation culture breeds among women conflates with her earlier awakening to its detrimental influence on Blue Brook's religious ceremonies and communities.

Cricket's exodus from the plantation marks the novel's end, but Peterkin underscores that Cricket is not leaving Blue Brook for the first time. The relevance of the second removal to Harlem is heightened by the fact that Blue--the character who remains confined to the plantation by choice and by design--watches her departure. The moment brings closure to the literal and symbolic journey that Peterkin travels over the course of three novels from cultural outsider (Breeze) to cultural insider (Mary) to cultural negotiator (Blue and Cricket). Crucially, it also opens a new path for the writer and the characters she creates. After Bright Skin, Peterkin stopped writing fiction altogether and published only a few essays. Susan Williams and Elizabeth Robeson allege that this move constituted Peterkin's (unfortunate) reversion in later life to a kind of "Old South" mentality. Ironically, neither Williams nor Robeson considers the possibility that Peterkin's mind was always already of the "Old Order."

To my mind, a critical reason that scholars such as Williams and Robeson have not, do not, or cannot account for the broad-ranging implications of Peterkin's modernism is integral to her widely documented, multiple associations with the Harlem Renaissance Harlem Renaissance, term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City. During the mass migration of African Americans from the rural agricultural South to the urban industrial North . While extensive consideration of these linkages falls beyond the scope of this particular project, it is worth noting that the objective of many influential Renaissance writers seems on the surface very much like the one scholars attribute to Julia Peterkin and, as elements of her credo suggest, Peterkin ascribed to herself. A principal belief among Renaissance writers was that the geographical relocation and urbanization of black people would provide the means for innovative black cultural expression and that this, in turn, would re-shape the nation's cultural landscape, empowering black Americans to exercise the social and political rights that a democratic society guaranteed but that history denied them. In the novels of Jean Toomer Jean Toomer (December 26, 1894–March 30, 1967) was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Biography
Born Nathan Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C.
, Claude McKay Claude McKay (September 15, 1889[1] – May 22, 1948) was a Jamaican writer and communist. He was part of the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem (1928), a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , Rudolph Fisher Rudolph Fisher (May 9, 1897 - December 26, 1934) was an African-American writer

His first published work, "City of Refuge", appeared in the Atlantic Monthly of February 1925. He went on in 1932 to write The Conjure-Man Dies, the first black detective novel.
, Nella Larsen Nellallitea 'Nella' Larsen (April 13, 1891 – March 30, 1964) was a mixed-race novelist of the Harlem Renaissance who wrote two novels and a few short stories. Though her literary output was scant, what she wrote was of extraordinary quality, earning her recognition by her , Jessie Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American folklorist and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, best known for the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. , which lay bare the sordid sides of intracultural connections and the limits of progress for black women, black spatial freedom and authority are imagined as enabling and privileged rites. In the poetry of Langston Hughes Noun 1. Langston Hughes - United States writer (1902-1967)
James Langston Hughes, Hughes
, Sterling Brown, and Arna Bontemps Arna Wendell Bontemps (October 13, 1902 - June 4, 1973) was an American poet and a noted member of the Harlem Renaissance. Life and Career
He was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, in a house at 1327 Third Street that has been recently restored and is now the Bontemps African
, which deploys indigenous expressions of black life as well as black urban experiences, manipulations of folk practices and customs facilitate the altruistic goals of exposing inequities, distinguishing the contributions of, and imagining greater cultural influence for black people in America. The suspicious nature of the resemblance between Peterkin's and Renaissance writers' manipulations of the trope of mobility is further obscured by the favor with which Renaissance personalities themselves praised Peterkin and her work.

In a review of Green Thursday (1924), for example, W. E. B. Du Bois Noun 1. W. E. B. Du Bois - United States civil rights leader and political activist who campaigned for equality for Black Americans (1868-1963)
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois
 described Peterkin as a "southern white woman" who nevertheless "has the eye and the ear to see beauty and know truth" ("Browsing" 81). Juxtaposing Black April with contemporary southern fiction, Alain Locke observed: "No novel has come out of the South more racy rac·y  
adj. rac·i·er, rac·i·est
1. Having a distinctive and characteristic quality or taste.

2. Strong and sharp in flavor or odor; piquant or pungent.

3. Risqué; ribald.

4.
 and redolent red·o·lent  
adj.
1. Having or emitting fragrance; aromatic.

2. Suggestive; reminiscent: a campaign redolent of machine politics.
 of its peculiar soil.... Blue Brook, the novel's fictional plantation setting, and its earthy plantation negroes is as carefully studied a portrayal of peasant life as American literature has yet produced" ("Negroes and Earth" 172). Of the same work, Countee Cullen Countee Cullen (May 30, 1903–January 9, 1946) was an African-American Romantic poet and an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance. Biography
Countee Cullen was born with the name Countee LeRoy Porter and was abandoned by his mother at birth.
 remarked: "No attempt is made ... to burlesque burlesque (bûrlĕsk`) [Ital.,=mockery], form of entertainment differing from comedy or farce in that it achieves its effects through caricature, ridicule, and distortion. It differs from satire in that it is devoid of any ethical element.  the Negro or to make anything of him except a human being." (20) In a letter to Peterkin, James Weldon Johnson praised Scarlet Sister Mary as "a fine story ... written with great beauty, clear insight and deep sympathy." (21) In addition to these key figures, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, and Walter White also commended her work. In fact, of all the Renaissance notables who early commented on Peterkin or her writing, none cast either in a less than glowing light. (22)

That Harlem's collective testimony remains a kind of authenticating document that Peterkin scholars use to validate the value and accuracy of her fiction points to a layer of Peterkin's legacy that still needs excavating. I believe that excavating this testimony and other aspects of Peterkin's example will yield greater understanding of the complexity of her work. The rather revealing problem inherent in her enduring status as a white black writer is that she was, in fact, a conservative white southern woman writing on black subjects. Regardless of her concern for the black people who lived with and worked for her, Peterkin's fiction constructs an upwardly mobile black southern population that threatened her status as a modern plantation mistress. Her apparent desire to preserve her position in Lang Syne's economy exposes the contradiction in her reputation as a Realist recorder of the black American experience American Experience (sometimes abbreviated AmEx) is a television program airing on the PBS network in the United States. The program airs documentaries about important or interesting events and people in American history, many of which have won impressive  and makes the case for reading Peterkin's writing within a modernist framework much more salient.

Notes

(1.) I excerpt these comments from several drafts of On a Plantation, Peterkin's unpublished novel, collected among the Peterkin papers, Archives of the South Carolina Historical Society (SCHS SCHS Santa Cruz High School (California)
SCHS Supreme Court Historical Society
SCHS San Clemente High School
SCHS Sand Creek High School (Colorado Springs, CO) 
), Columbia, South Carolina Columbia is the state capital and largest city of South Carolina. As of 2006, estimates for the population of the city proper is 122,819[1]. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a small portion of the city extends into Lexington County. .

(2.) Mencken maintains that Peterkin elected to abandon the novel after submitting only one draft to him (My Life 374).

(3.) Peterkin was awarded a Pulitzer in 1929 for Scarlet Sister Mary. Her popularity as a writer spread rapidly in the aftermath of the publication of Green Thursday (1924), her first short story collection.

(4.) As Susan Williams notes, many early reviewers of Peterkin's work admittedly found it difficult to discern her race because of her penetrating portrayal of black culture ("A Devil' x). For example, see "[Review of] Black April," Chicago Defender The Chicago Defender was the United States’ largest and most influential black weekly newspaper by the beginning of World War I.[1] The Defender was founded on May 5, 1905 by Robert S. , clipping, qtd. in Williams 82.

(5.) See, for example, Williams, Robeson, Ross, and Hutchinson.

(6.) See Perkerson; Meade, "Springtime Pilgrimage"; "Milestones"; Warren; Peterkin to Emily Clark (Apr. 1928) in Innocence Abroad 227; and Peterkin (letter) to W. H. Kovan, 20 Jan. 1938.

(7.) With the publication of "Missy's Twin" in Oct. 1922, Peterkin began receiving hate mail. The Columbia State, the most widely circulated newspaper in South Carolina and a paper born out of the state's anti-populist sentiments, refused to print original reviews of her work until the release of Black April. Peterkin's family also initially responded unfavorably to her writing. At the age of 21, Peterkin's son, Bill, fearing for the family's reputation, urged her to write about other white southern women or southern gentlemen, not black people. See Clark, Innocence Abroad 217; Lewis Jones 137; and Latimer 9-17.

(8.) Undated letter in Joel E. Spingarn collection.

(9.) For example, see Durham, intro, to Peterkin's Collected Short Stories 50; Rubin, William Rubin, William (1927–  ) art historian, curator; born in New York City. He studied at Columbia University (B.A. 1949; M.A. 1952; Ph.D. 1959), and at the University of Paris.  Elliott 252; O'Brien 53; and Davidson, Literary Correspondence 16, 19, 132, 260.

(10.) See especially Brickell, "Literary Awakening" 138-39; and Williams "Devil," x, 31 and" 'There's No Way'" 145.

(11.) "Groping in Literary Darkness," originally featured in Smart Set, was republished in H. L. Mencken's Smart Set Criticism as "The Negro as Author" (1968).

(12.) In her study of white women and politics in antebellum Virginia, Elizabeth Varon carries her analysis of this power paradox beyond conventional studies, refreshingly recognizing it as "a commitment to the traditional gender order, in which women deferred to the leadership of men, with a passion for politics and a desire to be heard" (9).

(13.) See Newby, Black Carolinians 200-01, and "Negroes Support Health Drive" 2.

(14.) See Carlton, 18-19, 40-41, 60-63, 115-16, 135, 161-62, and 244-45; Gerald Johnson, 71-72; and Kremm and Neal, 172-86.

(15.) For accounts of the case against the accused black Lowman family, see Walter White papers, October 20, 1928, and Rope and Faggots. See also Ginzburg 175-78.

(16.) See Mencken papers, 1922, 1925; Sandburg papers 1923; and "The Klan in 1928."

(17.) These patterns structurally recall Gertrude Stein's narrative technique in Three Lives as well as her conceptualization con·cep·tu·al·ize  
v. con·cep·tu·al·ized, con·cep·tu·al·iz·ing, con·cep·tu·al·iz·es

v.tr.
To form a concept or concepts of, and especially to interpret in a conceptual way:
 of migratory modernism in The Making of Americans.

(18.) Robeson argues that Peterkin shifts between antipastoral and pastoral modes in Black April and Scarlet Sister Mary to inflect in·flect  
v. in·flect·ed, in·flect·ing, in·flects

v.tr.
1. To alter (the voice) in tone or pitch; modulate.

2. Grammar To alter (a word) by inflection.

3.
 Victorian and Modern affinities. See "The Ambiguity," 773-74 and 776. I disagree with Verb 1. disagree with - not be very easily digestible; "Spicy food disagrees with some people"
hurt - give trouble or pain to; "This exercise will hurt your back"
 this reading of the motive, and would argue instead that what appears to be antipastoral (e.g., the absence of white owners in the novels) is the strategic removal of some pastoral elements to accentuate others.

(19.) I borrow this term from Carter Woodson whose Mis-Education of the Negro (1933) re-orders history to highlight black contributions to American culture and evidence black oppression by standard knowledge systems.

(20.) Cullen, "Black April," Book Notes from Meridian Book Shop I (1927), in Julia Peterkin Author File, Bobbs-Merrill Manuscripts.

(21.) Johnson to Peterkin, 18 Aug. 1929, Bobbs-Merrill Manuscripts.

(22.) As many Peterkin scholars have noted, Peterkin often socialized so·cial·ize  
v. so·cial·ized, so·cial·iz·ing, so·cial·iz·es

v.tr.
1. To place under government or group ownership or control.

2. To make fit for companionship with others; make sociable.
 with white Harlemites such as Carl Van Vechten Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964) was an American writer and photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein.  in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
 and Joel Spingarn at Lang Syne, her plantation home in Sumter, South Carolina. Hughes also visited Lang Syne, but Peterkin claims not to have been at home at the time of his arrival.

Works Cited

Bailey, Hugh and William Dale II. "Missus mis·sus  
n.
Variant of missis.


missus or missis
Noun

1. Brit, Austral & NZ informal
 Alone in de 'Big House'." Alabama Review 8 (1955): 43-55.

Bobbs-Merrill Papers. Lilly Library. Indiana University Indiana University, main campus at Bloomington; state supported; coeducational; chartered 1820 as a seminary, opened 1824. It became a college in 1828 and a university in 1838. The medical center (run jointly with Purdue Univ. , Bloomington.

Brickell, Herschel. "The Literacy Awakening in the South." Bookman 66 (1927): 138-43.

Brown, Sterling. "Arcadia, South Carolina." Opportunity 12 (1934): 59-60.

Burton, O. V. "The Development of Tenantry and the Post-Bellum American Social Structure in Edgefield County, South Carolina Edgefield County is a county located in the U.S. state of South Carolina. In 2000, its population was 24,595; in 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that its population had reached 25,528.[1] Its county seat is Edgefield6. ." From Slavery to Sharecropping sharecropping, system of farm tenancy once common in some parts of the United States. In the United States the institution arose at the end of the Civil War out of the plantation system. Many planters had ample land but little money for wages. : White Land and Black Labor in the Rural South, 1865-1900. Ed. Donald G. Neiman. New York: Garland, 1994. 19-34.

Carlton, David. Mill and Town in South Carolina, 1880-1920. Baton Rouge Baton Rouge (băt`ən rzh) [Fr.,=red stick], city (1990 pop. 219,531), state capital and seat of East Baton Rouge parish, SE La. : Louisiana State UP, 1982.

Clark, Emily. Innocence Abroad. New York: Knopf, 1931.

Davidson, Donald Davidson, Donald

(born March 6, 1917, Springfield, Mass., U.S.—died Aug. 30, 2003, Berkeley, Calif.) U.S. philosopher. He taught at various universities before settling at the University of California at Berkeley in 1981.
. "The 43 Best Southern Novels for Readers and Collectors." Publisher's Weekly 127 (27 Apr. 1935): 167-76.

Dixon, Thomas Dixon, Thomas, 1864–1946, American novelist, b. Shelby, N.C., grad. Wake Forest College. A militant Southerner, he is best known for his novel The Clansman (1905), on which the movie The Birth of a Nation (1915) was based. . The Clansman. New York: Doubleday, 1905.

Du Bois Du Bois (d`bois, dəbois`), city (1990 pop. 8,286), Clearfield co., W central Pa., in the region of the Allegheny plateau; inc. 1881. , W. E. B. "Two Novels." Originally published in The Crisis (1928). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature African American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent. The genre traces its origins to the works of such late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano, reached early high points with slave narratives . Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., et al. New York: Norton, 1997. 759-60.

Durham, Frank. "Mencken as Midwife." Menckeniana 32 (1969): 2-6.

Gilroy, Paul. Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line color line
n.
A barrier, created by custom, law, or economic differences, separating nonwhite persons from whites. Also called color bar.

Noun 1.
. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000.

Ginzburg, Ralph. One Hundred Years of Lynching. Baltimore: Black Classic P, 1962.

Grantham, Dewey. The South in Modern America. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Hutchinson, George. The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1995.

Johnson, Gerald. "The South Takes the Offensive." American Mercury 2 (1924): 70-78.

Jones, Lewis. Stormy Petrel petrel (pĕ`trəl), common name given various oceanic birds belonging, like the albatross and the shearwater, to the order known commonly as tube-nosed swimmers. : N. G. Gonzales and His State. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1973.

"Julia Peterkin." Living Philosophies. New York: Simon & Schuster Simon & Schuster

U.S. publishing company. It was founded in 1924 by Richard L. Simon (1899–1960) and M. Lincoln Schuster (1897–1970), whose initial project, the original crossword-puzzle book, was a best-seller.
, 1931.

"The Klan in 1928." Boston Evening Transcript The Boston Evening Transcript was a daily afternoon newspaper in Boston, Massachusetts published from July 1830 to April 1941. The WBET Radio Station takes its call letters from the Boston Evening Transcript as they shared a common owner.  24 December 1927: sect.3, 2.

Kremm, Thomas and Diane Neal Diane Neal (born November 17, 1975 in Alexandria, Virginia) is an American actress widely known for her role as Casey Novak on . She had previously appeared in the Season Three episode as high-powered female rapist Amelia Chase before joining the main cast as their ADA. . "Challenges to Subordination: Organized Black Agricultural Protest in South Carolina, 1886-1895." African American African American Multiculture A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. See Race.  Life in the Post-Emancipation South, 1861-1900. Ed. Donald G. Nieman. New York: Garland, 1994. 172-86.

Latimer, Samuel. The Story of "The State," 1890-1969, and the Gonzales Brothers. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1970.

Locke, Alain. "Negroes and Earth." The Survey 58 (May 1927): 172.

Meade, Julian. "Springtime Pilgrimage: To the Gardens of Nine Women Who Wield a Spade as Well as a Pen." Good Housekeeping Good Housekeeping is a women's magazine owned by the Hearst Corporation, featuring articles about women's interests, product testing by The Good Housekeeping Institute, recipes, diet, health as well as literary articles.  106 (1938): 50-53, 154-63.

Mellon, James, ed. Bullwhip bull·whip  
n.
A long, plaited rawhide whip with a knotted end.

tr.v. bull·whipped, bull·whip·ping, bull·whips
To whip or beat with a bullwhip.
 Days: The Slaves Remember. New York: Avon, 1988.

Mencken, H. L. The Diary of H. L. Mencken. Ed. Charles Fecher. New York: Knopf, 1989.

--. My Life as Author and Editor. Ed. Jonathan Yardley. New York: Knopf, 1993.

--. "The Sahara of the Bozart." Prejudices: Second Series. New York: Knopf, 1920.

--. "The Negro as Author." H. L. Mencken's Smart Set Criticism. Ed. William Nolte. New York: Cornell UP, 1968. 320-22. Rpt. of "Groping in Literary Darkness." Smart Set 63 (Oct. 1920): 140.

--. H. L. Mencken Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts Division. New York Public Library New York Public Library, free library supported by private endowments and gifts and by the city and state of New York. It is the one of largest libraries in the world. .

Meriwether, Coyler. "Social Changes in the Black Belt." Sewanee Review The Sewanee Review is a literary magazine and academic journal founded in 1892 and the oldest continuously published periodical of its kind in the United States. It incorporates original fiction and poetry, as well as essays, reviews, and literary criticism.  5 (Apr. 1897): 203-09.

Montgomery, Mabel. Worth-While South Carolinians. Columbia, SC: The State Co., 1934.

Moore, John Hammond John Hammond may refer to:
  • John Hammond (New York) (1827-1889), U.S. Representative from New York
  • John A. Hammond (1843–1939), Canadian painter
  • John Hammond FRS (1889–1964), physiologist and Fellow of the Royal Society
  • John E.
. "South Carolina's Reaction to the Photoplay pho·to·play  
n.
A play filmed or arranged for filming as a movie. Also called photodrama.
 The Birth of a Nation." Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Assocation 64 (1963): 30-40.

"Negroes Support Health Drive: Leaders Pledge Aid After Hearing Mrs. MacDonald." Columbia State 30 Nov. 1930: 2.

Newby, Idus A. Black Carolinians: A History of Blacks in South Carolina from 1895 to 1968. Columbia: U of South Carolina P, 1973.

O'Brien, Michael. The Idea of the American South: 1920-1941. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Noun 1. Johns Hopkins - United States financier and philanthropist who left money to found the university and hospital that bear his name in Baltimore (1795-1873)
Hopkins

2.
 UP, 1979.

Perkerson, Medora Field. "Julia Peterkin-Author and Farmer." Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine 28 April 1940: 1-2.

Peterkin, Julia. Black April. 1927. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1998.

--. "Boy-Chillen." One-Act Plays for Stage and Study. New York: Samuel French Samuel French (1821 - 1898) was a U.S. entrepreneur who, together with British actor, playwright and theatrical manager Thomas Hailes Lacy, pioneered in the field of theatrical publishing and the licensing of plays. , 1943.

--. Bright Skin. 1932. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1998.

--. Green Thursday. New York: Knopf, 1924.

--. "One Southern View-Point." The North American Review Founded in Boston in 1815, The North American Review (NAR) was the first literary magazine in the United States, and was published continually until 1940, when publication was suspended due to World War II.  244 (1937-38): 389-98.

--. Papers. Columbia, SC: South Carolina Historical Society.

--. Roll, Jordan, Roll. New York: Robert O. Ballou, 1933.

--. Scarlet Sister Mary. New York: Avon, 1928.

Robeson, Elizabeth. "The Ambiguity of Julia Peterkin." The Journal of Southern History 61 (1995): 761-86.

Ross, Stephen Ross, Stephen

Developer of the Arbitrage Pricing Theory. Finance professor at MIT.
. "Thick-Tongued Fiction: Julia Peterkin and Some Implications of the Dialect Tradition." Faulkner, His Contemporaries, and His Posterity. Ed. Waldemar Zacharasiewicz. Bern: Verlag, 1993.

Rubin, Louis, Jr. William Elliot
This article is about the Australian jockey. For the senior RAF commander, see William Elliott (RAF officer).
Billy Elliot was an Australian Jockey. He rode the racehorse Phar Lap to many victories, notably the 1929 Melbourne Cup.
 Shoots a Bear'. Essays on the Southern Literary Imagination. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1975.

Sandburg, Carl Sandburg, Carl, 1878–1967, American poet and biographer, b. Galesburg, Ill. The son of poor Swedish immigrants, he left school at the age of 13 and became a day laborer. . Papers. Illinois Historical Survey. Urbana-Champaign, IL: U of Illinois.

Spingarn, Joel Spingarn, Joel (Elias) (1875–1939) literary critic, writer, social reformer, horticulturist; born in New York City. After taking all his degrees (through the Ph.D. . Joel E. Spingarn Collection. Manuscript Division. New York Public Library.

Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude, 1874–1946, American author and patron of the arts, b. Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pa. A celebrated personality, she encouraged, aided, and influenced—through her patronage as well as through her writing—many literary and . The Making of Americans. New York: Something Else P, 1966.

Stubbs, Thomas. Family Album: An Account of the Moods of Charleston, S.C. and Connected Families. Atlanta: Curtis, 1943.

Varon, Elizabeth. We Mean to Be Counted: White Women and Politics of Antebellum Virginia. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures


Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
 P, 1998.

Warren, Dale. "A Plantation Family: A Novelist Who is Also the Mistress of a South Carolina Plantation, and Who Lived before She Began to Write." Boston Evening Transcript 24 December 1927, sect.4, 1.

White, Walter White, Walter (Francis) (1893–1955) civil rights leader, author; born in Atlanta, Ga. Fair-skinned, blond, and blue-eyed although part black, he could pass for white but chose to champion the cause of the black race after experiencing a race riot in Atlanta, . Papers. NAACP NAACP
 in full National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Oldest and largest U.S. civil rights organization. It was founded in 1909 to secure political, educational, social, and economic equality for African Americans; W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B.
 Administrative Files, Library of Congress Manuscript Division. Washington, D.C.

--. Rope and Faggots: A Biography of Judge Lynch. New York: Arno, 1969.

Williams, Susan. "A Devil and a Good Woman, Too." Athens: U of Georgia P, 1997.

--. "There's No Way to Tell You Who I Am: Julia Peterkin's Black Voices." Publications of the Arkansas Philological phi·lol·o·gy  
n.
1. Literary study or classical scholarship.

2. See historical linguistics.



[Middle English philologie, from Latin philologia, love of learning
 Association 15 (1989): 144-53.

Nghana tamu Lewis is currently Asisstant Professor in the Department of English Noun 1. department of English - the academic department responsible for teaching English and American literature
English department

academic department - a division of a school that is responsible for a given subject
 at Louisiana State University Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, generally known as Louisiana State University or LSU, is a public, coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and the main campus of the Louisiana State University System. .
COPYRIGHT 2004 African American Review
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion

Title:

Comment:



 

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Lewis, Nghana tamu
Publication:African American Review
Date:Dec 22, 2004
Words:12632
Previous Article:Cosmopolitanism in Georgia Douglas Johnson's anti-lynching literature.
Next Article:"This plague of their own locusts": space, property, and identity in Dorothy West's The Living is Easy.



Related Articles
Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885.
Beneath the Black aesthetic: James Baldwin's primer of Black American masculinity.
Invented by Horror: The Gothic and African American Literary Ideology in Native Son.
The Whiteness of Child Labor Reform in the New South.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2014 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters