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Margaret Walker's Jubilee is an important marker in the effective development of African-American historical counter-narratives. Walker indeed appropriates feature traditions in the narratives of the enslaved, which she reshapes to create a new mode of representation that will only come to predominate in the sixties. Walker's text anticipates most of the practices embedded in the new body of African-American historical studies and novels on enslavement published after the sixties, which like her work pays attention to the agency and self-representations of the enslaved; privileges description of their community-and culture-building energies; exhibits forms of resistance; and interrogates the myths and stereotypes disseminated in Anglo-American representations. Walker's approach to history has inspired filial African-American contemporary writers. Indeed, as Pettis conjectures, "historical fiction structured in the same manner as Jubilee is also a vital precursor to complex ... approaches to Afro-American history such as David Bradley's The Chanesysville Incident, John A. Williams' Captain Blackman, and Ishmael Reed's parody of the genre, Flight to Canada" (12). Margaret Walker's text, as several critics have pointed out, may well have been the impetus for revisions of the history of chattel enslavement from the Black woman's perspective such as Ernest G. Gaines' The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), Sherley Anne Williams' Dessa Rose (1986), and Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987). (i) The author's confirmation that enslavement did not destroy the spirit of her heroine is her legacy to female protagonists of historical fiction that follows such as Miss James Pittman, Dessa Rose, and Sethe. Most scholarship on Jubilee traces back the text's inception to the sixties. Indeed, critics such as Ashraf H. A Rushdy, in "The Neo-Slave Narrative;" Joyce Pettis in "Margaret Walker: Black Women Writer of the South;" and Angelyn Mitchell in her introduction to The Freedom to Remember: Narrative, Slavery, and Gender in Contemporary Black Women's Fictions--suggest that the novel's development parallels the sixties. This article argues that in accounting for the revisionist undertaking which Jubilee represents, however, one should not only take into account the significant ideological base of the sixties, because Margaret Walker's text is a product of an earlier period during which the African-American movement of historical reclamation reached its peak: the thirties.

Essais et sciences humaines
1 juin
Journal of Pan African Studies

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