Title

"I am a Arkansas Man:" An Analysis of African-American Masculinity in Antebellum Arkansas

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Department

History & Political Science

College

College of Arts & Humanities

Committee Chair

Dr. Kelly Houston Jones

Second Committee Member

Dr. James Moses

Third Committee Member

Dr. Gregory Michna

Program Director

Dr. Guolin Yi

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Richard Schoephoerster

Abstract

This thesis examines the experiences of African-American men in the years leading up to and through the American Civil War in order to understand how they constructed their own sense of manhood. Contemporary slave narratives and abolitionists’ expositions routinely tailored their definitions of manhood to white notions of gender in order to garner white support. Prominent abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass tailored their language of resistance against slavers to cast them as honorable martyrs as opposed to vengeful slaves so as to undermine racist caricatures of brute violence. But black southern men struggled against the confines of their bondage and the chaos of wartime to assert their own sense of manhood. This thesis asks questions about how these African-Americans moved within and beyond the boundaries and expectations of Arkansas’s slave society, underscoring their attempts to define themselves as men. Making use of sources like WPA ex-slave interviews, court records, and other contemporary accounts, “I am a Arkansas man:” An Analysis of African-American Masculinity in Antebellum Arkansas, offers an understanding of the building of black masculinity within Arkansas, with implications for the African-American experience beyond.

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