The Presence of Ghosts in African American Literature
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The enslavement of Africans in the Americas was also a repeated trauma experienced across generations. The lives of some individuals exemplify the widespread experience of suffering and degradation. The first half of this paper explores how writers of historical fiction represent the lives of those individuals, namely Margaret Garner and Tituba of Salem. In their respective novels, both Toni Morrison and Maryse Condé claim a connection to the ghosts of Garner and Tituba. What ethical questions emerge from such a relationship? Is the ghost a projection of the needs of the living; do these writers use the dead to authorize their texts? In other words, does the choice to bear witness through writing have more to do with the demands of a living readership than the needs of the ghost? The second half of the paper reads in Corregidora by Gayl Jones and Praiseong for the Widow by Paule Marshal what Beloved and I, Tituba are unable, or unwilling, to accomplish. That is the possibility of redress, of using memory as a political tool through which to claim a lost heritage. This half of the paper also questions whether remembering through writing moves the trauma from private, inconsolable grief to public, political grievance.