Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, 38 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Erica Fretwell

Committee Members

Glyne Griffith


African American women in literature, African American women, Women slaves, Minstrel shows, Stereotypes (Social psychology) in literature

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Women's Studies


In the United States, Black women grapple with harmful cultural representations of their womanhood and sexuality that are rooted in the minstrel tradition. Specifically, Black women are represented as objects of consumption or hypersexual. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin reveals an engagement with the minstrel tradition that has demonstrated both a perpetuation of negative portrayals of Black women but also a departure from these images. This paper focuses on the responses to Stowe’s characterization by the authors Zora Neale Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God and Gayl Jones in Corregidora that reclaim the minstrel tradition to reveal the complex sexual subjectivities of Black women. It emcompasses Black feminist critique and a critical examination of the engagement with the minstrel figures “Mammy” and “Jezebel” in the selected works. The results suggest that the works of Hurston and Jones represent Black women as neither fully liberated nor entirely defined by the afterlife of slavery.