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Fugitive TestimonyOn the Visual Logic of Slave Narratives$
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Janet Neary

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780823272891

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823272891.001.0001

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Optical Allusions: Textual Visuality in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

Optical Allusions: Textual Visuality in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

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(p.79) 3 Optical Allusions: Textual Visuality in Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom
Source:
Fugitive Testimony
Author(s):

Janet Neary

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823272891.003.0004

This chapter reads William Craft’s Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom (1860) as an emblematic text that depends upon a series of complex interactions between the Crafts’ cultivation of their image and their use of dialogue and narration in different contexts. Examining how the visual image Ellen cultivates is juxtaposed with the couple’s use of double entendre, the chapter argues that William Craft places the ambivalence of language and the ambivalent language of skin color side by side to unsettle popular notions of racial identity and identification. The narrative illustrates that phenotypical characteristics such as complexion are not facts with fixed meanings, but, rather, are discursively defined social symbols that can be manipulated to various ends. I argue that Craft turns this revelation back on the authenticating requirements of the slave narrative, offering interpersonal recognition as a mode of visuality which counters the objectifying gaze of slavery.

Keywords:   authentication, Ellen Craft, William Craft, racial identity, recognition, Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom

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