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Representing the RaceA New Political History of African American Literature$
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Gene Andrew Jarrett

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814743386

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814743386.001.0001

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The Intellectual Culture of Racial Politics after Slavery

The Intellectual Culture of Racial Politics after Slavery

(p.49) 2 The Intellectual Culture of Racial Politics after Slavery
Representing the Race

Gene Andrew Jarrett

NYU Press

This chapter examines how Frederick Douglass translated political action into ideologies and practices of intellectual culture in order to deal with the repercussions of slavery. Undoubtedly, the efforts of African Americans to negotiate, secure, and share social power were a direct function of the degree to which they could vote, hold office, register an affiliation with a political party, have their delegates confirmed at conventions, and serve on juries. Yet African American political action prevailed in intellectual culture—and necessarily so. Political theories of racial genius persisted in both electoral politics and cultural politics, with the goals of discrediting the promise of African American political representation and sustaining white supremacy. Douglass and other African American writers of his generation recognized this fundamental linkage of racist politics and intellectual culture, critiqued it in their writings, outlined strategies for overcoming it as a race, and participated in social activism to implement their strategies.

Keywords:   Frederick Douglass, political action, intellectual culture, slavery, racial genius, white supremacy, racist politics

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