Of double-blooded birth: a history of mixed-race women in the United States during the early twentieth century.

Carter, Jemma (2020) Of double-blooded birth: a history of mixed-race women in the United States during the early twentieth century. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Often homogenised into broader narratives of African-American history, the historical experience of mixed-race women of black-white descent forms the central research focus of this thesis. Examining the lives of such women offers a valuable insight into how notions of race, class, gender and physical aesthetics were understood, articulated and negotiated throughout the United States during the early-twentieth century.

Through an analysis of wide-ranging primary source material, from letters, diaries and autobiographies to advertisements, artwork and unpublished poetry, this thesis provides an interdisciplinary contribution to the field of Critical Mixed Race Studies, and African-American history. It builds on existing interpretations of the Harlem Renaissance by considering the significance of mixed-racial heritage on the formation of literature produced by key individuals over the period. Moreover, this research reveals that many of the visual and literary sources typically studied in isolation in fact informed one another, and had a profound impact on how factors such as beauty, citizenship, and respectability intersected, and specifically influenced the lives of mixed-race women. It also hones in on the lives of two biracial women born to a white mother and black father, and shows their existence defied dominant societal norms in a more discernible way than those whose mixed-race heritage resulted from an interracial interaction several generations ago.

At a time when the mixed-race body was used to shape the ideologies of eugenicists, legislators and creatives alike, women who occupied this corporeality sought to reclaim agency by writing themselves and their experience into existence, and by crafting alternative racial identities more aligned to their own understanding of race. Ultimately, this thesis complicates existing analyses of race and identity by situating the voices of mixed-race women within their historical and theoretical context, and considering the ways in which they navigated the complex racial politics which defined the period.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2021 14:16
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2021 14:34
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/79838


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