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Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership$
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Erica R. Edwards

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816675456

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816675456.001.0001

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Toni Morrison’s Paradise and African American Literature’s Holy Hollow

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Charisma and the Fictions of Black Leadership

Erica R. Edwards

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter discusses how late twentieth-century African American narratives registers interracial difference of class, gender, and sexuality in contemporary black politics. These narratives call attention to the violence—both white supremacist and intraracial—that the commodification of black leadership in the post-civil rights era renders invisible. In Toni Morrison’s Paradise, a young civil rights activist and minister contemplates how the black community he serves memorializes the 1960s struggle while trading or “pawning” it in exchange for the comforts of patriarchy and property. The literal trade of civil rights symbology only circulates “statues, street names, speeches” as decoration for a leadership politic of intraracial patriarchal policing and conservative retreat in the face of terrorizing white supremacy. Writer Candice Jenkins notes that Paradise was written during a decade fraught with intraracial ambivalence and confusion about what it meant to be black in the post-civil rights era.

Keywords:   African American narratives, interracial difference, class, gender, sexuality, contemporary black politics, white supremacist, intraracial, Toni Morrison, Paradise

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