The “Whiter Foster Sister” Fails: Interracial Sisterhood is a Myth in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

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발행기관 : 한국아메리카학회 수록지정보 : 미국학논집 / 47권 / 1호
저자명 : ( Na Rim Kim ) , ( Ji Eun Kim )

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In antebellum America, rising tensions between North and South sparked debate over the system of slavery. Proslavery logic defended slavery by depicting the plantation as a “patriarchal institution,” protected by a benevolent white patriarch. White female activists of the time found fault with this patriarchal reasoning, and so sought to deconstruct proslavery discourse by exposing the immorality of the white master. Thus, they chose to reveal graphic testimonies of his prime victim, the sexually molested black slave woman. Antislavery writings of the 1830s were expressed through conventional sentimental language to foster the readers’ humane identification with the victims of such brutality. In producing such writing, white female abolitionists believed white women were better equipped to understand the sufferings of their black counterparts. The enthusiasm of white female abolitionists being such, many black slave women provided them with their testimonies of life in the South, foregoing personal shame. The ex-slave Harriet Jacobs was one among the black women who sought to appeal to white women for help. Her autobiographical novel Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent, is the product of such resolution. In writing her narrative, Jacobs received the aid of the white female abolitionist Lydia Maria Child, who edited and wrote the introduction to Incidents. On the surface, the collaboration between the black female writer and the white female editor seems to be mutually trusting and productive. However, a close reading of Incidents brings to light a trail of skepticism towards the sincerity of white female kindness, while inspection of Child’s correspondences with Jacobs reveals the white woman’s somewhat condescending attitude which denies Jacobs full authority as author. This paper discusses how this friction came about, resulting in the impossibility of constructing interracial sisterhood.

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      The “Whiter Foster Sister” Fails: Interracial Sisterhood is a Myth in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
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