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Transformable RaceSurprising Metamorphoses in the Literature of Early America$
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Katy L. Chiles

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199313501

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199313501.001.0001

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Becoming Colored in Occom and Wheatley’s Early America

Becoming Colored in Occom and Wheatley’s Early America

Chapter:
(p.31) { 1 } Becoming Colored in Occom and Wheatley’s Early America
Source:
Transformable Race
Author(s):

Katy L. Chiles

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199313501.003.0002

Chapter 1 shows how protestant religious thinking about the body and the distinctions among humankind’s varieties inform Samson Occom’s and Phillis Wheatley’s portrayals of racialization. Drawing upon aspects of natural history validating Christian monogenism, Occom and Wheatley represent the process of “becoming colored” as part of a divine plan, one that establishes universality and particularity throughout humankind. Occom’s “Short Narrative” and A Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian use contemporaneous beliefs about the status of the “red” Indian body to take issue with the contradictions in colonialists’ religious viewpoints, and his “To All the Indians in this Boundless Continent” draws upon transformable race to assert tribal sovereignty. Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral combines mythological with natural-historical beliefs about the generation of poetic genius and skin pigmentation to characterize the black poet not as a surprising oddity but rather as an expected likelihood.

Keywords:   Samson Occom, Phillis Wheatley, “Short Narrative,”, A Sermon, Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, an Indian, “To All the Indians in this Boundless Continent,”, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, monogenism, Christianity, Mohegan, race

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