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Racial Innocence Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights

ISBN-10: 0814787088
ISBN-13: 9780814787083
Edition: 2011
Authors: Robin Bernstein
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Description: Beginning in the mid nineteenth century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence--a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it  More...

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Book details

Copyright year: 2011
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 12/1/2011
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 318
Size: 6.00" wide x 9.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 1.144
Language: English

Beginning in the mid nineteenth century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence--a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it became racialized: popular culture constructed white children as innocent and vulnerable while excluding black youth from these qualities. Actors, writers, and visual artists then began pairing white children with African American adults and children, thus transferring the quality of innocence to a variety of racial-political projects--a dynamic that Robin Bernstein calls “racial innocence.” This phenomenon informed racial formation from the mid nineteenth century through the early twentieth. Racial Innocencetakes up a rich archive including books, toys, theatrical props, and domestic knickknacks which Bernstein analyzes as “scriptive things” that invite or prompt historically-located practices while allowing for resistance and social improvisation.  Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, Bernstein offers singular readings of theatrical productions from blackface minstrelsy toUncle Tom’s CabintoThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz; literary works by Joel Chandler Harris, Harriet Wilson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett; material culture including Topsy pincushions, Uncle Tom and Little Eva handkerchiefs, and Raggedy Ann dolls; and visual texts ranging from fine portraiture to advertisements for lard substitute. Throughout, Bernstein shows how “innocence” gradually became the exclusive province of white children--until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not only in legally desegregating public spaces, but in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself.

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Acknowledgments
Introduction: Playing Innocent: Childhood, Race, Performance
Tender Angels, Insensate Pickaninnies: The Divergent Paths of Racial Innocence
Scriptive Things
Everyone Is Impressed: Slavery as a Tender Embrace from Uncle Tom's to Uncle Remus's Cabin
The Black-and-Whiteness of Raggedy Ann
The Scripts of Black Dolls
Notes
Index
About the Author
Color plates follow page

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