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Lovable Racists, Magical Negroes, and White Messiahs$
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David Ikard

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226492469

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226492773.001.0001

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Good Slave Masters Don’t Exist: Lovable Racists and the Crisis of Authorship in Twelve Years a Slave

Good Slave Masters Don’t Exist: Lovable Racists and the Crisis of Authorship in Twelve Years a Slave

(p.21) One Good Slave Masters Don’t Exist: Lovable Racists and the Crisis of Authorship in Twelve Years a Slave
Lovable Racists, Magical Negroes, and White Messiahs

David Ikard

University of Chicago Press

Chapter One challenges the conventional reading of the slave narrative, Twelve Years a Slave, as a subversive text that strategically avoids condemning all white slave masters as evil so as not to alienate Northern whites who, because of deep investments in white supremacist thinking, might be offended and, by extension, less inclined to condemn slavery. Calling attention to the fact that TYAS was ghostwritten by a white author, David Wilson, who idealized Harriet Beacher Stowe and her blockbuster novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, the chapter argues that the portraits of good white slave masters in the narrative reflect what I call lovable racist thinking and reveals more about the mechanisms of willful white blindness and black complicity therein than it does about the complexity of black humanity and self-determination. The chapter argues that the movie "12 Years A Slave" is hyper-aware of this phenomenon and strategically challenges this lovable racist thinking by exposing the willful and nefarious blindness of the white slavers and rescripting the black women characters--who Solomon Northup and David Wilson uniformly characterize as weak and pitiful in the narrative--as fierce and insightful interrogators of white patriarchal capitalist patriarchy, Victorian white womanhood, and black patriarchy.

Keywords:   Twelve Years a Slave, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, W. E. B. DuBois, David Wilson, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beacher Stowe, agency, violence, Frederick Douglass, cultural capital

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