The Properties of Marriage in Chesnutt and Hopkins

Jeffory A. Clymer

in Family Money

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199897704
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199980123 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in American Literary History

The Properties of Marriage in Chesnutt and Hopkins

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Chapter 5 examines the economic stakes of Jim Crow–era antimiscegenation laws as imagined in the fiction of Charles Chesnutt and Pauline Hopkins. The significance of these 1890s Black Family Romances is usually said to follow from the effort to reestablish and solidify black kinship ties after the chaos and pain of slavery and Reconstruction. But this chapter reads these novels for their intervention into the comparative legalities of interracial marriage and property ownership, before and after Reconstruction. Recognizing marriage’s special place in the period’s racial backlash, the novels suggest that American lawmakers saw marriage as key for reconcentrating white wealth after the political upheaval of Reconstruction. Chesnutt and Hopkins look to the past in their novels to imagine the opportunities for, and impediments to, rearranging the calculus of race, property, and marriage for the twentieth century.

Keywords: marriage; antimiscegenation laws; Charles Chesnutt; Pauline Hopkins; reconstruction; Jim Crow; melodrama

Chapter.  13126 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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