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African-Americans perform for the White People

Satisfactory Essays
Both Dr. Manganelli in “The Tragic Mulatta Plays the Tragic Muse” and Dr. Ashton in “Entitles: Booker T. Washington’s Signs of Play” depict marginalized African-American characters who have to deal with being former slaves and get into the public light in performative roles. Both authors show that African-American always have to perform for white people, be it when they are slaves, in a concubine role or later when they are free.
Dr. Manganelli depicts a mixed-race woman, which was a figure of intense interest to Victorian writer Charles Kingsley, who wrote in the voice of the mixed-race female and imagines her as “an embodiment of undisciplined desire, at once dangerous and deeply alluring to men” (Manganelli 501). Marie is already pushed into a performative role, when her sexuality is connected to her African blood, which makes her into a spectacle for white suitors. While the white females were safely shielded away from the white men looking for a sexual adventure, women of African descent were first displayed at the auction block and therefore already performing, however involuntarily.
Booker T. Washington grew up as a slave and sculpted his self-image in performative roles. While the subject of his sexuality is not a subject of Dr. Ashton’s paper, she shows that he invented himself in a way to perform to the expectations of the white people. He states, “In some way within a few weeks, I mastered the greater portion of the alphabet” (Ashton 12). He shrouds how he learned the alphabet by himself without the help of others in some mystery. This shows that Booker T. Washington was carrying out his role for the white audience that was going to read his book, akin to the dealings he was making with influential white powerful peo...

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...erican citizens and chose his last name to invoke awe and to inspire.
Both the “Tragic Muse” and Booker T. Washington continue to play roles after slavery in order to safeguard themselves next to the ruling powerful white class. While the Tragic Muse is a realistic depiction of an author, she has the ability to flee the public performance to the considered safety of a domestic life. Booker T. Washington however was constantly in the public eye and since he had to perform his role as leader at all times this might have contributed to his early death. Even though they are supposedly free, they are still marginalized.

Works Cited

Ashton, Susanna. "Entitles: Booker T. Washington." Southern Literary Journal. 39.2 (2007): 1-23. Print.
Manganelli, Kimberly Snyder. "The Tragic Mulatta Plays the Tragic Muse." Victorian Literature and Culture. 37. (2009): 501-522. Print.
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