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New MenManliness in Early America$
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Thomas A. Foster

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814727805

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814727805.001.0001

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“Strength of the Lion … Arms Like Polished Iron”

“Strength of the Lion … Arms Like Polished Iron”

Embodying Black Masculinity in an Age of Slavery and Propertied Manhood

(p.172) 9 “Strength of the Lion … Arms Like Polished Iron”
New Men

Kathleen M. Brown

NYU Press

This chapter examines black masculinity from the earliest days of colonial settlement to the early republic. It reveals how the premises and expectations for manhood changed dramatically, triggering changes in conceptions of what it meant to be human that were at odds with slavery's chattel principle. Yet slavery did not die an inevitable death; rather it became more entrenched, protected by laws that safeguarded the master's claim to human property. In the space between these dramatic transformations in the meanings of manhood and the denial of humanity that was the essence of slavery, male slaves enacted manhood with their bodies. They created a culture of male performance that offered them some protections from violence, and opportunities to dominate fellow slaves, particularly women, in certain circumscribed contexts. Black masculinity took root and flourished in the performances of the black male body even as white masculinity was developing alternative foundations and expressions of male authority and self-assertion derived from landed property, literacy, emotional refinement, and evangelical religion.

Keywords:   black men, black masculinity, manhood, slavery, male body

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