Black History Month: What is Black?

What is Black? Searching for that word within the Cultural Formation tag in the Orlando digital history of women’s writing brings up, of course, a number of writers with unmixed African descent: from Phillis Wheatley and Mary Prince through Zora Neale Hurston to Toni Morrison and Buchi Emecheta.

But that’s only part of the story. Many iconic “black” writers come of mixed race. The black heroine Sojourner Truth was said by Harriet Beecher Stowe to be “evidently a full-blooded African,” a “fine . . . specimen of the torrid zone.” Yet Truth actually sprang from more than one race: she …