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Unghosting Apparitional Histories

Erasures of Black Lesbian Feminism

Michelle Moravec, Author

This comment was written by Tricia Matthew on 16 Dec 2013.

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Rambling Reply

Forgive my intellectually self-absorbed response here but your work reminds me of my own project of how white women in the nineteenth-century used the slave question and the abolitionist movement to forward their own push for equality. It makes me think that the erasure of Bonnie Johnson, as you already note, is another example of a project that seems like solidarity actually being another example of co-opting.

So when Sally Strickland takes on the role of recounting Mary Prince’s’ narrative, she is also telling her own story of oppression. Or, rather, benefitting materially from serving as Prince’s voice. And when Hannah More does this in her Sorrow of Yamba, a poem she changes to reflect Christian ideology.

By the time we get to Johnson’s era, the gap between white women and women of color has closed substantially, but the practice of co-opting and erasure still echoes under the guise of solidarity. I read the “master’s tools” is a nod to this complicated history.

One way I read the ghosting of her lesbian subject position has everything to do with how the sexuality of women of color is either caricatured or ignored all together. This is more a gut feeling than anything but to recognize a woman of color as a lesbian is to see her as fully dimensional with more agency and nuance than society (all shades and hues of it) allows. We are Mammies, Sapphires, etc…we don’t get a lot of nuance or agency at the same time that we’re powerful and terrifying at once.
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Beyond the Footnotes (16 December 2013)
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