Iola Leroy

Privilege and Rejection of Identity through Racial Passing in Iola Leroy; or Shadow’s Uplifted College

Considering its initial publication in 1892, during the era of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Frances E. W. Harper employs the meaning of racial uplift through passing. During the era of slavery, the phenomenon of racially passing was a common practice in that it gave way as a means to freedom. Often times, mixed-race subjectivity allowed for passing; if an individual were able to pass as white, they were granted “special” privileges through black eyes, but typical inherent privileges through white eyes such as education and fair treatment. The strategic usage and manipulation of the act of passing throughout the novel symbolizes the racial solidarity that was needed to get through difficult times, while showcasing the lengths at which people were willing to go through to achieve economic success by earning careers. In some ways, passing as white can be viewed as a strategy to acquire knowledge during a period of oppression against minorities; it is also a sheer survival tactic that reflects the power inequities within slavery. The act of passing in Iola Ler oy, or Shadows Uplifted not only signifies an internal longing for inherited privilege but displays a sense of giving up an identity.

The novel promotes this...

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