The American Antiquarian Society is hosting a virtual book talk with Koritha Mitchell, author of From Slave Cabins to the White House: Homemade Citizenship in African American Culture.
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.
Koritha Mitchell is a literary historian, cultural critic, and associate professor of English at Ohio State University. She is author of Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, which won book awards from the American Theatre and Drama Society and from the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. She is editor of the Broadview Edition of Frances Harper’s 1892 novel Iola Leroy, and her articles include “James Baldwin, Performance Theorist, Sings the Blues for Mister Charlie,” published by American Quarterly, and “Love in Action,” which appeared in Callaloo and draws parallels between lynching and violence against LGBTQ communities. Her second monograph, From Slave Cabins to the White House: Homemade Citizenship in African American Culture, was published in August 2020. Her commentary has appeared in outlets such as CNN, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post, NBC News, PBS Newshour, and NPR's Morning Edition.