Cover for Mitchell: From Slave Cabins to the White House: Homemade Citizenship in African American Culture. Click for larger image

From Slave Cabins to the White House

Homemade Citizenship in African American Culture

African American mothers and wives navigating double standards

Koritha Mitchell analyzes canonical texts by and about African American women to lay bare the hostility these women face as they invest in traditional domesticity. Instead of the respectability and safety granted white homemakers, black women endure pejorative labels, racist governmental policies, attacks on their citizenship, and aggression meant to keep them in "their place."

Tracing how African Americans define and redefine success in a nation determined to deprive them of it, Mitchell plumbs the works of Frances Harper, Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison, Michelle Obama, and others. These artists honor black homes from slavery and post-emancipation through the Civil Rights era to "post-racial" America. Mitchell follows black families asserting their citizenship in domestic settings while the larger society and culture marginalize and attack them, not because they are deviants or failures but because they meet American standards.

Powerful and provocative, From Slave Cabins to the White House illuminates the links between African American women's homemaking and citizenship in history and across literature.

"This project on homemade citizenship will reframe the conversation around anti-blackness by mapping how black women intellectuals, activists and artists continually respond – and with great success – to attacks and infringements upon their collective creative efforts. This work is a needed subtlety, as it approaches categories like 'achievement' and 'success' from the fabric of black cultural production, rather than the font of white supremacy’s violent response to black existence. From Slave Cabins to the White House encourages us to ask new questions, one of which is certainly how did we/do we make a home and sustain it creatively in the midst of ongoing hostilities?"--Sharon Patricia Holland, author of The Erotic Life of Racism


Koritha Mitchell is an associate professor of English at The Ohio State University and the author of Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930.

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