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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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Rewriting Psalm 68:31: Narrative Formations of Ethiopia

Rewriting Psalm 68:31: Narrative Formations of Ethiopia

(p.168) 7 Rewriting Psalm 68:31: Narrative Formations of Ethiopia
The Ethiopian Prophecy in Black American Letters

Roy Kay

University Press of Florida

Harper's poem “Ethiopia” initiates the poetic refiguring of Psalm 68:31. This chapter demonstrates how the figure of Ethiopia becomes a major motif in early black American fiction. In Delany's Blake, Hopkins' Of One Blood, and Griggs's The Hindered Hand, the figure of Ethiopia plays a dominant role in the critique of America and in the articulation of the Negro's humanity, poetic imagination, and quest for civil rights and equality under the law. Also, many of these narrative readings of Psalm 68:31 novelize the figure of Ethiopia into a messianic leader who liberates black people. Moreover, they situate the American discussion of race, the Negro Question, and race mixing, contrary to previous readings of the verse addressed, in non-literary ripostes. Finally, the chapter is an example of the plasticity of Ethiopia as a figure and signifier in black American letters.

Keywords:   black American fiction, figure of Ethiopia, Delany, Griggs, Hopkins, messiah, narrative, novel, plasticity, race mixing

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