n English in Africa - Classical black

Volume 34, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0376-8902



In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, writers and painters portrayed black South Africans in more positive, complex and less racist ways than later writers did, or than critics have acknowledged. In particular, anyone reading fairly widely in literary or travel accounts of Southern Africa during this period must be struck by a persistent set of images comparing black South Africans to classical figures. In this paper, I explore the significance of this allusive habit, arguing that, although some classical names for slaves and blacks might have been used in a derogatory or belittling way, most writers used these images in a spirit of humane celebration of difference and oneness and in tribute to physical attractiveness and beauty.

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