Intertextual Links: Reading "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in James Weldon Johnson's "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man."

Miskolcze, Robin
January 2013
College Literature;Winter2013, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p121
Academic Journal
Though literary critics of James Weldon Johnson's 1912 "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man" convincingly regard the novel as reminiscent of the slave narrative, few readers have considered the scope and significance of Johnson's reference to a major best-selling literary predecessor: Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin." Johnson's explicit reference to Stowe's 1852 novel early in his story solicits a reading of the intertextual links between the two novels. Specifically, I explore how Johnson's narrator and Stowe's Uncle Tom are connected by the symbol of the coin necklace, a gift from white men that carries a paternalistic force. In addition to Uncle Tom, I also analyze the similarities between Johnson's narrator and Stowe's biracial character, Adolph. Comparing Johnson's and Stowe's narrative choices for their biracial characters illustrates the trajectory of cultural politics involved in defining race and normative sexuality from the pre-Civil War years to the early twentieth century.


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