Searching for the New Black Man
Black Masculinity and Women's Bodies
How women's bodies function within productions of ideal and progressive black masculinities in African American literature
Using the slave narratives of Henry Bibb and Frederick Douglass, as well as the work of W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Walter Mosley, and Barack Obama, Ronda C. Henry Anthony examines how women's bodies are used in African American literature to fund the production of black masculine ideality and power. In tracing representations of ideal black masculinities and femininities, the author shows how black men's struggles for gendered agency are inextricably entwined with their complicated relation to white men and normative masculinity. The historical context in which this study couches these struggles highlights the extent to which shifting socioeconomic circumstances dictate the ideological, cultural, and emotional terms upon which black men conceptualize identity.
Yet, Anthony quickly moves to texts that challenge traditional constructions of black masculinity. In these texts she traces how the emergence of collaboratively gendered discourses, or a blending of black female/male feminist consciousnesses, are reshaping black masculinities, femininities, and intraracial relations for a new century.
"At this crucial juncture in our nation's history when the most powerful black man in America and arguably the world resides in the White House and also identifies as a feminist and endorses gay rights, Searching for the New Black Man intervenes to help us make sense of it all historically, including the link between black feminist agitation and how black men, like Barack Obama, understand and negotiate their masculinity today. Her critical engagement with the challenges of crafting a progressive, pro-feminist black masculinity is not only timely but wickedly insightful. Rather than just rehearse a romanticized vision of transformative black feminist politics as it informs new modes of progressive black masculinities, Henry interrogates the obstacles--ideological and material--that have made achieving such masculine ideals so elusive intraracially from slavery to the present day. In a word, Searching for the New Black Man makes a substantial contributions to black masculinity and feminist scholarship."- David Ikard, associate professor of English at Florida State University and author of Breaking the Silence: Towards a Black Male Feminist Criticism
"Both historical and topical, Searching for the New Black Man provides new insights as it contextualizes Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned in the tradition of the neo-slave narrative and President Obama's autobiography against DuBois's Dark Princess. Professor Ronda Henry Anthony carries the conversation from the historical sources into our lives, opening conversations crucial to our understanding of black masculinities and their implications for America in the twenty-first century."- Missy Dehn Kubitschek, professor of English, Africana studies, women's studies, and American studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis