Legacy Volume 35, No. 1

Volume 35, No. 1, 2018

 

Editor’s Note

Susan Tomlinson, University of Massachusetts Boston

 

Essays

Uplift, Radicalism, and Performance: Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel as Community Project

Rachel Nolan, University of Connecticut

This essay connects black performance scholarship with histories of respectability to analyze the 1916 inaugural staging of Angelina Weld Grimké’s anti-lynching play Rachelat the Myrtilla Miner Normal School, in Washington, D.C. At the time of the play’s production, school principal Lucy Ella Moten was a noted proponent of racial uplift. Institutional histories and education board reports reveal that she reproached poor black families and constructed her trainees as promoters and protectors of the bourgeois family. Moreover, at a time when teacher training was one of the few routes by which black women might achieve professional employment, she implemented an admissions policy that restricted enrollment at the Miner School. And yet Moten also invited into the school a theatrical performance that contested uplift and bourgeois respectability. Grimké’s Rachel dramatizes the growing divisions between relatively elite and non-elite black people. The play’s critique of the broken promise of black education must have been especially striking to an audience of trainee teachers who would soon find themselves responsible for the education and wellbeing of the city’s black children. By reading the Miner School performance as a site of ideological dialogue, this essay reveals a complex picture early twentieth-century black women’s professional activism. Ultimately, it argues that the institutional context in which Rachel was first performed fostered contact between the bourgeois and the radical.

Zora Neale Hurston’s Prophetic Self-Fashioning

Jenny Hyest, Lehigh University

From the Archives

Tuskegee’s Silent Histories: The Jennie C. Lee Papers and the Visual Archive

Christa Holm Vogelius, University of Copenhagen

This essay examines the archival photo collection and scrapbook of Jennie Cheatham Lee, the second choir teacher at the Tuskegee Institute from 1903 to 1928, arguing for the significance of visual archives such as Lee’s in telling the histories of institutions beyond the printed tracts, treatises, and mission statements typically kept by male administrators. It reads Lee’s photo collection, which captures the daily lives of primarily female Tuskegee students and staff on occasions including trips to the beach, hat-making classes, and choir performances, as evidence for a culture in which aestheticism and cultural aspiration vies with Tuskegee’s more official utilitarian self-presentation. It also reads Lee’s collection against two photo albums kept by teachers during the same period at the Lincoln Normal School, another African American secondary school in Alabama, whose images are more in line with a primarily pragmatic and economic ethos. Ultimately, it argues that such visual histories can also offer us an another route into literature, with the Lee papers suggesting an alternative perspective on the opening setting of Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, which is inspired by the author’s experience as a staff member at Tuskegee in 1915.

“Force them into fair dealing”: Poetic Professionalism in Elizabeth Akers Allen’s Letters

Elissa M. Zellinger, Texas Tech University

Zellinger discusses Elizabeth Akers Allen, a Maine poet known for her 1860 poem, “Rock Me to Sleep,” and the ensuing controversy over its authorship. While the scandal tends to be of central importance to scholarship on Akers, it has, as scandals do, also tended to obscure her life and works. In this article, Zellinger reconsiders this controversy as part of a long literary career that encompasses the professional judgment and artistic craft of nineteenth-century female poets. To do so, she discusses a pair of heretofore unpublished letters from 1902 that Akers sent to her friend Gilbert Tracy. These letters exhibit the discriminatory conditions that vexed women writers in post-Civil War periodical and literary publishing. Akers reveals her mistreatment by male editors and literary figures who expect her to write for free, who do not take her literary abilities seriously, and who even dispute her claim to her own works. These letters contribute to our understanding of the ongoing conflict between the industry-savvy, professional poet and the public persona of the woman writer in the long nineteenth century. Zellinger concludes that private letters could offer public resistance to the unfair treatment of women in the literary profession.

Review essay

The Return to Sentimentalism in Antebellum Poetry Studies

Don James McLaughlin, Swarthmore College

Book reviews

Westerns: A Woman’s History, by Victoria Lamont

Nicole Tonkovich, University of California, San Diego

Kelroy by Rebecca Rush, edited by Betsy Klimasmith

Kacy Tillman, University of Tampa

A Mysterious Life and Calling: From Slavery to Ministry in South Carolina, edited by Crystal Lucky

Susanna Ashton, Clemson University

Black Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century, by Nazera Sadiq Wright

Katharine Capshaw, University of Connecticut

Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay: An Annotated Edition, edited by Timothy F. Jackson

Melissa Girard, Loyola University Maryland

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