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How Watermelons Became Black: Emancipation and the Origins of a Racist Trope

How Watermelons Became Black: Emancipation and the Origins of a Racist Trope <p>Abstract:</p><p>This article explicates the origins of the racist watermelon trope and its relationship to white Americans’ attitudes toward emancipation. The trope had antecedents in Orientalist depictions of the growing, selling, and eating of watermelons, but the fruit was not associated with African Americans until after emancipation. Freedpeople used watermelons to enact and celebrate their freedom, especially their newfound property rights. This provoked a backlash among white Americans, who then made the fruit a symbol of African Americans’ supposed uncleanliness, childishness, idleness, and unfitness for the public square. The trope spread in U.S. print culture throughout the late 1860s and supported the post-emancipation argument that African Americans were unsuited for citizenship.</p> http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Journal of the Civil War Era University of North Carolina Press

How Watermelons Became Black: Emancipation and the Origins of a Racist Trope

The Journal of the Civil War Era , Volume 8 (1) – Mar 6, 2018

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright @ The University of North Carolina Press
ISSN
2159-9807

Abstract

<p>Abstract:</p><p>This article explicates the origins of the racist watermelon trope and its relationship to white Americans’ attitudes toward emancipation. The trope had antecedents in Orientalist depictions of the growing, selling, and eating of watermelons, but the fruit was not associated with African Americans until after emancipation. Freedpeople used watermelons to enact and celebrate their freedom, especially their newfound property rights. This provoked a backlash among white Americans, who then made the fruit a symbol of African Americans’ supposed uncleanliness, childishness, idleness, and unfitness for the public square. The trope spread in U.S. print culture throughout the late 1860s and supported the post-emancipation argument that African Americans were unsuited for citizenship.</p>

Journal

The Journal of the Civil War EraUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Mar 6, 2018

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