Biblical Allusions In African American Literature

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Since the Great Awakening of the 18th century when slaves adopted the religion of their oppressors, African American authors have tailored Christianity to the needs of the race through biblical allusions and references. In The Talking Book: African Americans and the Bible, Allen Dwight Callahan argues that African-American literature is fundamentally impacted by African American interpretation of the Bible (). He states that African American literature does not “begin with writing”, but instead that it “begins with religion [Christianity]” ().
Allusions to the Bible in African American literature and abolitionist literature often appear through biblical tropes. Biblical figures such as the Christ figure were introduced as literary devices
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White society held “the belief that practically all Negro women lack virtue and sexual morals”, which is derived from the “tigress” myth that black women have a “stronger sexual urge and the superior sexual skill and capacity” (An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, 108). This blame thrust upon Sappho by society is directly voiced by John Langely who declares “girls of fourteen are frequently wives in our Southern climes, where women mature early,” blaming her gender and ripe age for her sexual assault instead of her assailant. Through portraying Sappho as a Madonna figure, Hopkins discredits the perception of Sappho as a “single woman who becomes tainted by sexual scandal and thus read by others as a prostitute” (Kristen Brooks, New Women, Fallen Women: The Crisis of Reputation in Turn-of the-Century Novels by Pauline Hopkins and Edith Wharton, 91). However by invoking the Virgin Mary archetype, Hopkins is challenging the condemnation and stigmatization of women following rape, as well as the female virtue and capacity of African American women to experience

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