During the first half of the twentieth century, American Jews demonstrated a commitment to racial justice as well as an attraction to African American culture. Until now, the debate about whether such black-Jewish encounters thwarted or enabled Jews' claims to white privilege has focused on men and representations of masculinity while ignoring questions of women and femininity. The White Negress investigates literary and cultural texts by Jewish and African American women, opening new avenues of inquiry that yield more complex stories about Jewishness, African American identity, and the meanings of whiteness. Lori Harrison-Kahan examines writings by Edna Ferber, Fannie Hurst, and Zora Neale Hurston, as well as the blackface performances of vaudevillian Sophie Tucker and controversies over the musical and film adaptations of Show Boat and Imitation of Life. Moving between literature and popular culture, she illuminates how the dynamics of interethnic exchange have at once produced and undermined the binary of black and white.
Publisher:New Brunswick, NJ : Rutgers University Press, 2011.
"A book in the American Literatures Initiative (ALI)"--Title page verso.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
From White Negress to Yiddishe mama: Sophie Tucker and the female blackface tradition -- The same Show Boat: Edna Ferber's interracial ideal -- Limitations of white: Fannie Hurst and the consumption of blackness -- Minstrel of the mountain: Zora Neale Hurston and the black-Jewish imaginary.