|dc.description.abstract||The first concern of this study is to trace the evolution of the discourse that framed Black male
identity in quite static, monolithic, racialized terms during the long nineteenth century. The
second aims to identify the iterations of resistance that these Black thought leaders utilized
across the African Diaspora to resist western and Enlightenment logics and redefine themselves.
Third, the dissertation seeks to explain how these actions constitute a decolonial positionality,
augur Black futures, and illuminate what Richard Delgado describes as counter-storytelling and
sociologist Anat Ben David defines as counter-archiving.
In Chapter One, “Archiving Masculinity, Family, and Gentility, in Venture Smith’s A
Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture” I explore how Smith appropriates the
underlying concept of “venturing” to assert his masculinity by engaging in counter-archival
methods. From the frontispiece of Smith’s autobiography, Smith uses codex rhetoric essentially
to offer a critique of even publishing conventions.
I suggest that this tactic is Smith’s way of“re-genre-ating” notions of modality and creating Afro-futures even in early America. The title reads, “A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture.” Having been named Venture by his enslaver, Robertson Mumford, who purchased him to be a business venture, even in post-slavery,
Smith retains his enslaved name--something I interpret as a signifier of Smith’s subversiveness.
In chapter 2, “Re-sermonizing Christianity through re-imaginings: Faith and Black
Masculinity in John Marrant’s a Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John
Marrant,” I show that John Marrant achieves his objectives by redefining the evangelical sermon
and then building on it. His reframing of the sermon genre includes his preaching to the
Cherokee and white audiences despite the prohibitions, his sentencing, and subsequent rebirth
after a Cherokee judge and king spares his life. Marrant centralizes notions of spiritism, pietism,
and Afro-centrism while carefully negotiating methodism, evangelicalism, and whiteness to
reshape the relationship of religion and Black agency.
In chapter 3, “I’ll ‘Fight Until Liberty Exists Among Us’: Military, Freedom, and Self
Fashioning as early Black Male Resistance,” I suggest that Toussaint Louverture accomplishes
this goal by reshaping the genre of the constitution as well as other documents to both fashion
himself and offer a liberatory future to his compatriots. This chapter considers the relationship
between masculinity and economics even in nineteenth-century Haiti. By showing Louverture
not only as an economically independent soldier but also as a general, gentleman and vulnerable
soul, the discussion frames Black machismo as an intricate, homosocial assemblage that peaks
when Louverture shows melancholy over Napoleon’s rejection of his desire for brotherhood. Chapter 3’s scope also documents the historical foundations of Haiti as a site of violent and
sometime visceral uprisings with possible implications for Haiti and the African Diaspora.
Chapter 4, “Diplomacy and Neocolonialism: Frederick Douglass and the Existential
Undoing of nineteenth-century American consulship,” argues that Frederick Douglass asserts his
identity by restructuring the Diplomatic cable which framed American consulship in the late
nineteenth-century to anticipate Afro-futurism. As American consul to Haiti under President
Benjamin Harrison, Douglass uses the Diplomatic cable to critique the racialized disrespect he
experiences at the hands of President Harrison and James Blaine, the then Secretary of State.
Douglass’s fight with Edward Covey not only serves as an existential pathway to shape the
Black author’s future; rather, the tussle itself embodies, foreshadows, and structures the public
spat that Douglass would engage in with President Benjamin Harrison and the US Government
years after, when he used this antedated experience on Covey’s farm to decolonize nineteenth-century American diplomacy and redefine it essentially on his terms.||en_US