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Brown BeautyColor, Sex, and Race from the Harlem Renaissance to World War II$
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Laila Haidarali

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479875108

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479875108.001.0001

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“Of the Brown-Skin Type”

“Of the Brown-Skin Type”

Madonnas, Mulattas, and Modern Women in Literary Print Culture

(p.104) 3 “Of the Brown-Skin Type”
Brown Beauty

Laila Haidarali

NYU Press

This chapter explores three brown-skin types that arose as a dynamic visual and literary repertoire in Harlem Renaissance print culture. The first image of the “brown Madonna” is studied as one representation at odds with modern gendered identities; the second trope, the “brown-skin mulatta,” is studied as a popular device that conveyed a series of anxious distortions onto the “mixed-race” body. Lastly, the more nuanced and diverse image of modern brown womanhood appears as an uneven eruption of class, race, and national identifiers of African-descended and “other” women of color not born in the United States. All three tropes are interpreted as separate and distinctly powerful manifestations of New Negro womanhood to highlight the differently sexed, classed, and gendered meanings accorded to brown complexions in the modern environment.

Keywords:   Madonna, brown-skin mulatta, Harlem Renaissance, mixed-race, womanhood, New Negro

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