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Black devils, white saints and mixed-race femme fatales: Philippa Schuyler and the winds of change

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Daniel McNeil


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This paper documents the self-fashioning of Philippa Schuyler in order to complicate and exemplify abstract definitions of Afropessimism. Well-known in 1930s America as an African American child prodigy, Schuyler grew up to be a peripatetic concert pianist and an ultra-conservative writer who disseminated anti-black caricatures in order to promote white male heroes as the only possible saviours of southern and central Africa. So, after briefly identifying some conservative soundbites of the 1960s that Schuyler accepted as authoritative, this paper engages with Schuyler’s intellectual development and her reportage from Africa via a number of archival sources (paying particular attention to documents from her time in Katanga that are repressed in her official biography). It concludes with a summary of Frantz Fanon’s analysis of “the woman of colour and the white man”, revealing how revolutionary intellectuals could calmly analyse colonized minds who craved whiteness – and offer tempting soundbites for Black Power activists searching for a new humanism – without relying on the romantic discourse of Afrooptimism developed by authors determined to promote a glorious African past.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McNeil D

Publication type: Article

Journal: Critical Arts: A Journal of South-North Cultural Studies

Year: 2011

Volume: 25

Issue: 3

Pages: 360-376

Print publication date: 13/10/2011

ISSN (print): 0256-0046

ISSN (electronic): 1992-6049

Publisher: University of KwaZulu-Natal


DOI: 10.1080/02560046.2011.615140


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