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Short Essay Exercises

1.
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Identify several African American authors writing after Reconstruction. Explain how one of these authors uses literature to respond to rampant lynching, white supremacy, or the Ku Klux Klan.
2.
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Review the folktales of the Vernacular Tradition section of the anthology; then read Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington. How does Washington use the tropes and conventions of black vernacular folktales in his postbellum autobiography?
3.
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Consider whiteness in the writings of Charles Chesnutt. What does it mean to be white to the characters in the stories? To the author of the stories themselves?
4.
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Examine Washington's Up From Slavery alongside Du Bois's critique of Washington in The Souls of Black Folk? To what extent are Du Bois's criticisms accurate and/or fair? Why might they be considered unfair?
5.
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How does Hopkins's description/critique of Booker T. Washington differ from that of W.E.B. Du Bois?
6.
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Compare the figure of the mulatta in "Talma Gordon" and Clotel. How does Hopkins revise the trope of the "tragic mulatta" that dominates antebellum literature?
7.
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James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man closes with the famous line " I cannot repress the thought that, after all, I have chosen the lesser part, that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage." How does money play a role in the ex-colored man's decision to claim white identity? Do you think that his closing lament might be read as a critique of Booker T. Washington's economic-minded philosophies of education and civil rights?

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