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The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters$
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Roy Kay

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780813037325

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813037325.001.0001

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Uplifting Ethiopia in America: Conversion, Self-Consciousness, and the Figure of Ethiopia

Uplifting Ethiopia in America: Conversion, Self-Consciousness, and the Figure of Ethiopia

Chapter:
(p.52) 3 Uplifting Ethiopia in America: Conversion, Self-Consciousness, and the Figure of Ethiopia
Source:
The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters
Author(s):

Roy Kay

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813037325.003.0004

This chapter examines how the figural readings of Psalm 68:31 address the figure of the Negro as a defective human being. In response to white American and Western European discourse of Negro defectiveness, a number of black people acquired literacy. Black readers, many of whom engaged Psalm 68:31, emerged as historical subjects, but they read the Negro into God's redemptive plan and the trajectory of modern culture. To be part of these grand narratives, Ethiopians (that is, black Americans) needed to be uplifted—converted into dark-skinned Christians and acculturated into Anglo-American bourgeois culture and its values. These readings of Psalm 68:31 refigure Ethiopia from a synecdoche for unconverted Gentile peoples into two overlapping figures: Ethiopia as Negro with a national destiny and Ethiopia as a racial designation for the Negro race with its own racial mythology and telos.

Keywords:   defective human beings, figure of Ethiopia, historical subjectivity, modern culture, Negro nation, Negro race, Psalm 68:31, telos, uplift

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