Ernest J. Gaines’ “A Gathering of Old Men” and the Social Construct of Race

Recently, I spoke with a colleague’s class about Ernest J. Gaines and specifically A Gathering of Old Men (1983). During the question and answer period, two students asked questions that made me start to think about the ways that Gaines, throughout his entire career, challenges the social construction of race. One student asked about Gaines’ unbiased representation of characters, including Fix, and he followed up by asking about the importance of Gaines’ work for the present moment. The other student asked a question I had never thought about before. He asked why Gaines had Charlie kill a Cajun, Beau Boutan, rather than a white landowner like Jack Marshall.

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“Rosa” and The Formation of an American Literature

At first, teaching Rosa, or American Genius and Education (1810) in an early American literature survey course seemed somewhat daunting. I frame my courses around conversations, typically beginning with David Walker and Thomas Jefferson then moving around through time and region back and forth from the colonial to the early nineteenth century. I do this to show students that even though these texts appear decades, and sometimes even centuries, apart they still connect to one another through thematic issues that repeatedly show up again and again. As the nature of survey course does not allow for an in-depth discussion of very aspect in Rosa, I chose to highlight a couple of important points that had become reoccurring themes throughout the semester.

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Jackie Ormes, the FBI, and “Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger”

A few months ago, I wrote about Jackie Ormes’ Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger single panel gags that appeared in the Pittsburgh Courier. In preparation for a talk I am giving on comics and race, I started looking back at some of these panels and read Nancy Goldstein’s and Deborah Whaley’s discussions of Ormes and her various comic strips and panels. Today, I want to take the time to look at a couple of more panels. While I could focus on her strips Torchy Brown in “Dixie to Harlem” or Torchy Brown in Heartbeats, I find the single panel works intriguing because Ormes conveys multiple meanings with a mere image and the caption she provides.

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