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Book cover of Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction

Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction

by Michele Mitchell

Published: December 2004
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press, The
Pages: 408
Paperback
ISBN: 9780807855676






Overview of Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction

Between 1877 and 1930—years rife with tensions over citizenship, suffrage, immigration, and "the Negro problem"—African American activists promoted an array of strategies for progress and power built around "racial destiny," the idea that black Americans formed a collective whose future existence would be determined by the actions of its members. In Righteous Propagation, Michele Mitchell examines the reproductive implications of racial destiny, demonstrating how it forcefully linked particular visions of gender, conduct, and sexuality to collective well-being.

Mitchell argues that while African Americans did not agree on specific ways to bolster their collective prospects, ideas about racial destiny and progress generally shifted from outward-looking remedies such as emigration to inward-focused debates about intraracial relationships, thereby politicizing the most private aspects of black life and spurring race activists to calcify gender roles, monitor intraracial sexual practices, and promote moral purity. Examining the ideas of well-known elite reformers such as Mary Church Terrell and W. E. B. DuBois, as well as unknown members of the working and aspiring classes, such as James Dubose and Josie Briggs Hall, Mitchell reinterprets black protest and politics and recasts the way we think about black sexuality and progress after Reconstruction.

Synopsis of Righteous Propagation: African Americans and the Politics of Racial Destiny after Reconstruction


Mitchell investigates an anxious period in U.S. history when African Americans negotiated domestic relationships, forged institutions, and clashed over strategies intended to preserve themselves as a people. Notions about "racial destiny" informed African Americans' views on emigration to Liberia, imperialism, sexuality, conduct, home environments, material culture, miscegenation and nationalism. This provocative book reinterprets black protest and politics after emancipation.

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Editorials

From the Publisher

"Mitchell's nuanced analysis of the politics of racial destiny encompasses a broad spectrum of social projects and activists. . . . [She] has painstakingly uncovered the authors, social networks, texts, and cultural artifacts of a relatively unknown body of social thought."
— American Historical Review

"Breathing new life into a familiar narrative, Mitchell's 'social history of ideas' offers more breadth and depth than intellectual histories of race leaders. . . . By tackling the most sensitive aspects of racial reform—imperialism, eugenics, and female sexuality—she has done us a great service."
— Journal of American History

"Makes vital contributions to the historiography of American sexuality and offers a provocative reinterpretation of black cultural history. . . . Should be mandatory reading for historians of African American history and for a broader audience seeking to gain a fuller understanding of Americans' longstanding debates over black respectability and sexuality."
— Historian