Signs of Blood: Redemption Songs and “American” Poetry beyond Borders
This chapter examines the role of women of African descent in the poetic re-imagining of the post-abolition “Americas” through a close, comparative analysis of Frances Harper and Cristina Ayala. Ayala and Harper posit a reconciled relationship of African descendants with the racist nation-state. This reconciliation opens the door for active participation in the ideological and symbolic re-imagining of the nation. They suggest that the spectre of slavery extended beyond the particular experience of slavery as defined by national regions. Ayala and Harper’s use of biblical typology—Ayala through the figure of Christ and Harper through the Exodus—demonstrate an early form of secular typology in the framing of a collective history of African descendants in the New World. Both poems inscribe a narrative of freedom. They propose a particular way of envisioning the emancipation of peoples of African descent in Cuba and the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.
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