Living with Lynching

Living with Lynching : African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930

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Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930 demonstrates that popular lynching plays were mechanisms through which African American communities survived actual and photographic mob violence. Often available in periodicals, lynching plays were read aloud or acted out by black church members, schoolchildren, and families. Koritha Mitchell shows that African Americans performed and read the scripts in community settings to certify to each other that lynch victims were not the isolated brutes that dominant discourses made them out to be. Instead, the play scripts often described victims as honorable heads of household being torn from model domestic units by white violence.

In closely analyzing the political and spiritual uses of black theatre during the Progressive Era, Mitchell demonstrates that audiences were shown affective ties in black families, a subject often erased in mainstream images of African Americans. Examining lynching plays as archival texts that embody and reflect broad networks of sociocultural activism and exchange in the lives of black Americans, Mitchell finds that audiences were rehearsing and improvising new ways of enduring in the face of widespread racial terrorism. Images of the black soldier, lawyer, mother, and wife helped readers assure each other that they were upstanding individuals who deserved the right to participate in national culture and politics. These powerful community coping efforts helped African Americans band together and withstand the nation's rejection of them as viable citizens.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 160.02 x 231.14 x 27.94mm | 566.99g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252036492
  • 9780252036491
  • 2,111,624

Review quote

"Impressively researched and powerfully argued, this first full-length critical study of lynching drama shows the ways that these plays galvanized dynamic conversations about the racialized politics of privacy, citizenship, patriotism, and gender roles in American culture. Living with Lynching is a tremendously illuminating work that breaks new ground in theater and performance studies, African American literary history, and women's and gender studies."--Daphne A. Brooks, author of Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 "Offers cogent insights into the cultural work of creative expression in a context of racial violence."--The Journal of American History"If ever a lynching book could be described as beautiful, it would undoubtedly be Mitchell's for the gracious way she takes care to read, generously and meticulously, all that she sees and hears (as well as what she does not see and hear) when she enters the homes that these characters have struggled to build for themselves."--Signs "Mitchell methodically documents and skillfully interprets lynching drama's important cultural work. . . . She illuminates an overlooked aspect African American literary history."--Arkansas Review "Mitchell expertly brings in critical approaches from literary and performance studies to show how concepts such as 'circulation' and 'impact' held different meaning for citizens trying to survive traumatic events. . . . Her study offers significant new insights into a key historical movement and provides a model of academic scholarship."--American Historical Review Winner of the American Theatre and Drama Society (ATDS) Book Award, 2012. Winner of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW) Book Award, 2012. "Required reading for understanding the ways in which narrative and performance have been central to challenging white oppression as well as (re)imagining black identity in America. Highly recommended."--Choice
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About Koritha Mitchell

Koritha Mitchell is an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University.
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Table of contents

Introduction: Whose Evidence? Which Account?; Capital Entertainment, Better Representation Part I: Making Lynching Drama and Its Contributions Legible 1: Scenes and Scenarios: Reading Aright; 2: Re-defining "Black Theatre" Part II: Developing a Genre, Asserting Black Citizenship 3: The Black Soldier: Elevating Community Conversation; 4: The Black Lawyer: Preserving Testimony; 5: The Black Mother/Wife: Blue Blood Safe; 6: The Pimp and Coward: Frances Conclusion: Documenting Black Performance: Key Considerations Bibliography
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Rating details

22 ratings
4.63 out of 5 stars
5 68% (15)
4 27% (6)
3 5% (1)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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