Toward a Reading of the Catholic Margin in Contemporary Narratives of Slavery
This introduction considers why African American authors would engage Catholicism in their efforts to revise the national discourse on slavery during the civil rights and Black Power movements, a period characterized by a deep suspicion of the cultural institutions that historically supported the rise of slave societies in the Americas. Contemporary narratives of slavery, from the earliest to the most recent, devote significant aesthetic attention to Catholic rituals and mysteries—even as they remain sharply critical of the political and social policies of the Catholic Church. The introduction charts this tension by locating the genre’s emergence during a time when heightened public attention to Catholicism following the Vatican II proceedings on race coincided with the rise of a broader national conversation on the legacy of slavery. It argues that this confluence is reflected in the ambivalence with which the contemporary slave narrative approaches Catholicism.
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