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Thread: Was jane austen (1775-1817) black?

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    Was jane austen (1775-1817) black?



    [Cassandra Austen (1773-1845), or Jane Austen (1775-1817)]

    WAS JANE AUSTEN (1775-1817) BLACK?

    By Egmond Codfried

    The chief glory of nations is derived from their writers wrote Dr. Samuel Johnson (1708-1784). And many around the world deeply enjoy Jane Austen’s books and letters, of which the interpretation is constantly fine-tuned and made into movies and TV series. They study human behaviour and are satirical of human failings. Her style was based on Dr. Samuel Johnson’s: ‘cool, well-ordered, witty and incisive observations of life.’ But because Austen’s live straddled the decisive period around the French Revolution (1789-1795), her life, her books and surviving letters can also be mined for her ideas about the radical changing times. Although she wrote novels in the Romantic fashion: ‘The passion of Romantism did not inspire her.’ So I, because of my research interests, look for Austen’s ideas about the changing views on the emergence and the controversial role of Race. In this light, the fact that there is no credible portrait of Britain’s finest nineteen-century female writer should be considered as highly problematic. Jane Austen, properly read, might grow into our greatest activist in proclaiming the glory of Blacks.

    Austen is very insistent about the brown and very brown complexion and the special beauty of her heroines. There can be no doubt that she is writing about brown, very brown and black skinned persons belonging to the gentry and aristocracy. Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park (1814) is ‘absolutely plain, black and plain.’ His description can be compared to the Moor, always a Classical African, in many eighteen-century scenes by painter Wiiliam Hogarth (1697-1764), which show a Moor in the middle of a noble assembly. The Moor, often disguised as a servant, is one symbol of blue blood, and informs us about the true looks and high birth of the company. In Northanger Abbey (1818) two women talk about there favourite complexion in a man: ‘dark or fair.’ This is answered as: ‘I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think. Brown—not fair, and not very dark.’ The other woman prefers light eyes and likes ‘a sallow better then any other.’ Marianna Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility (1811) is Austen’s heroine who is ‘so lovely,’ ‘uncommonly brilliant’ and a delightful beauty: ‘that when, in the common cant of praise, she was called a beautiful girl, truth was less violently outraged then usually happens.’ But only after all this staggering praise we are told that: ‘Her skin was very brown.’ The most famous of Austen’s heroines, Eliza Bennet from Pride and Prejudice (1813) is described deprecatingly by her rival in love, Miss Caroline Bingley, as: ‘grown brown and coarse’ and ‘her complexion has no brilliancy.’ However, Mr. Darcy, their love interest; does not find any fault in any of that but perceives her as ‘rather tanned’ because of her ‘travelling in summer.’ From The Watsons, we learn about its heroine Emma Watson: ‘Her skin was very brown, but clear, smooth, and glowing.’

    Austen is clearly not talking about whites who happen to be more or less tanned. In a letter to her sister Cassandra Austen she mentions a Mrs. Blount with: ‘Her Pink husband & Fat neck’ (20-21 November 1800). White skin is referred to as ‘Pink.’ She rather discusses the many shades we see among Blacks, in a way that Blacks today have abandoned. We consider this talk today as colorism, the dangerous antagonism between ‘good’ and ‘bad complexion.’ So naturally Emma Watson’s beauty does not ‘improve on acquaintance’ with everybody. Austen states: ‘Some saw no fault, and some no beauty.’ And: ‘With some her brown skin was the annihilation of every grace.’ But Miss Austen is clearly not fooling around when she discusses complexion. In Persuasion (1818) she never mentions brown or black complexion, but subtle yet with devastating force mentions ‘Gowland’ twice. She refers to real life Gowland’s Lotion, a skin-bleaching potion introduced in 1760. So it had grown into quite an institution in her lifetime. Although advertised as a panacea for many beauty problems, the real purpose was to bleach a black or brown skin by peeling with lead white, a corrosive ingredient. Lead white was also used during the Renaissance by Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, as a whitening make-up and bleaching agent named Venetian Ceruse or Spirits of Saturn. By the addition of mercury derivates, another corrosive substance, to Gowland’s, it also functions as our Botox today, as it paralyses the facial muscles and causes a youthful radiance, but an immobile facial expression. Both substances are poisonous and their constant and excessive use attracted censure by scientists. Austen ascribes the use of Gowland to Sir Walter Elliot, the father of the heroine Anne Elliot. Her personage had ‘an elegance of mind and sweetness of character.’ She had taken after her mother who was: ‘ an excellent woman, sensible and amiable.’ Austen introduced Sir Elliot as: ‘Handsome with the blessing of beauty,’ through Anne’s eyes, and as a ‘failing’ and ‘conceited, silly father.’ So we may assume Austen decidedly rejects the skin-bleaching practises by the black and brown Europeans in her books.

    The brown beauty of Emma and Eliza and the very brown beauty of Marianne and Emma Watson are reflected in the six detailed descriptions of Jane Austen by her family and friends. Even towards the controversial nature of the views of black and brown looks that we can derive from her books. Austen is described as: ‘in complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour’ (1864) and: ‘- she had a bright but not a pink colour – a clear brown complexion’ and: ‘she had clear brown skin.’ But the language also becomes cryptic: ‘Her pure and eloquent blood spoke in her cheeks,’ and needs deciphering. Her niece Eliza de Feuillide (1761-1813) married a French aristocrat, who was guillotined during the French revolution (1789-1795), describes her own looks as: ‘add to all this a very share of Tan with which I have contrived to heighten the native brown of my Complexion, during a two years residence in the country.’ One takes notice of the self-deprecating tone of voice, which is also encountered in the works by contemporary Isabelle de Charrière (1740-1805). She described herself as: ‘She does not have the white hands, she knows this and even jokes about it, but its not a laughing matter.’(1764) And in Lettres écrites de Lausanne (1785) her heroine Cécile is described by her doting mother as: ‘she would have been beautiful if her throat was whither.’ Jane Austen died young from a still unidentified disease and she wrote in a final letter: ‘I’m recovering my Looks a little, which have been bad enough, black and white & every wrong colour.’(1817)

    The prevailing emphasise on brown and very brown skin in both her works and the way she herself was described, forces us to consider Jane Austen’s personal identity as Black. And there we are double crossed by the absence of an authenticated portrait which shows her own rich brown complexion and prettiness. In my ongoing research, my Blue Blood is Black Blood (1500-1789) Theory (2005), I have already encountered some so-called ‘missing’ portraits, which however do exist, or existing portraits which are not put on display in a museum because of African looks, or those portraits which show the same person who is described as ‘noir et basané’ (black brown) and ‘chimney sweeper’ as a blue eyed, white man. This scandalous falsehood we also encounter in the present day depictions of Austen’s personages by white actors and actresses. Marianne Dashwood, who was ‘very brown,’ is played by the lovely Miss Kate Winslet, who is blond and white. Miss Jennifer Ehle is white and has ethnic looks, derived from her Rumanian grandmother, but does not look ‘brown’ nor ‘’rather tanned’ as Austen describes Eliza Bennet.

    Apparently, I’m not the only one who has discovered Jane Austen’s blackness. Yet where I welcome this as a valuable addition to my research after Blacks and coloured Europeans who were a dominating elite, others seek to deny, hide and submerge. They are denying Blacks the glory that derives from Black achievement and Black writers. The one un-authenticated portrait, which was acquired in 2000 by The Jane Austen Trust is supposed to show Cassandra Austen, but can be considered to be Jane’s, as it perfectly conforms to all her descriptions. Yet she will not be identified by them as Black because eurocentrism claims ‘There were no Blacks!’ Or what one might perceive as a Black is most likely a ‘Black Caucasian’ and not a ‘True Negro,’ they say. As some might know that according to eurocentrism Africans should be divided in African Caucasians, who might be pitch black but display no prognatism, and the ‘True Negroes’ who are prognastic. Apparently an unforgivable offence, we will see. And eurocentrism will blithely insist that there is no proof because we cannot employ biometric pliers to measure Austen’s skull to proof her a Negress. Or some easily disproved nonsense about Blacks who cannot be rendered in paintings. And their final obstacle is demanding from a researcher a Black ancestor, who must be named. And has to be a ‘True Negro’ who is a SSA, from below the ‘South of Sahara.’. Someone, just like Alexander Pushkin’s great-grandfather, Abraham Hannibal. Or Alexander Dumas’ father, General Dumas whose mother was an enslaved woman from Martinique. Yet Africa is just across the very narrow Straights of Gibraltar and Africans first arrived 43.000 years ago in Europe. Who knows their names? Whites, descendents of Albino’s who are in my experience just normal and healthy people who need a sunblock, are only 6000 years in Europe, coming from Central Asia. But mostly whites claim, unconvincingly, not to be the least interested in whether Jane Austen was white or Black, but rather focus on her work and personality. As if personality is not also informed by an ethnic identity. As if any writer can be studied without some reference to the personal context. Jane Austen also wrote about persons whose fortune was derived from slavery, as Isabelle de Charrière did and struggled with her own wealth. Fanny Price’s outburst against slavery is met with silence, in Mansfield Park, by the slaveholding Bertram family. Reverend George Austen (1731-1805), Jane’s father, acted as a trustee for a plantation on Antigua owned by Mr. Nibbs. Jane Austen was perfectly in the know about emerging views of Blacks. Does she refer to this when she cries out in a letter to her sister: ‘If I’m a wild Beast I cannot help it’ and ‘It is not my own fault.’(1813) The Moor, the Classical African who symbolised blue blood and black superiority was demoted to the base of the evolutionary ladder, now a creature between the superior white Human and Apes. This part also highlights the role of European Blacks in exploiting Africans in slavery. Yet eurocentrism blocks any dialogue or argument as if these views are dangerous and extremely pernicious and would threaten the very fundaments of the whole western civilisation. Any solicitation is met with rudeness and next dead silence. And even sabotage by library workers, as I have found out. Interesting is that on the Internet this portrait is shown out of focus which renders her prognastic lips fuzzy. And therein I find the reason for suppressing her portrait: Jane Austen displays clear Classical African features that make her Blackness undeniable.

    The suppression of Jane Austen’s true portrait had already started during her lifetime and apparently no public portrait was issued by her in 1811 when she debuted with Sense and Sensibility. She knew that her ‘peculiar charm,’ which pointed to ‘the purity and eloquence of her blood’, put her straight in the line of fire of revolutionaries who had violently brought down the Ancien Regime. This regime I have defined as Reversed Apartheid. Sadly, I sometimes have to point out to some that South African Apartheid was an unjust and a wholly evil system. Likewise Reversed Apartheid, but this Black and Coloured nation shaped Europe in the way we know it today. My research shows a great and universal scramble to amend ancestral portraits to hide Blackness, even to the point of defacement. Now I can safely push back this panic to at least around 1811. I have concluded that there most certainly were many portraits of Jane Austen adorning the walls of the stately homes of family and friends were she was received as a favourite relative and guest. Yet they displayed her Classical African features, a mark of ‘her pure blood,’ and thus became a liability. Black Europeans who considered their blackness as proof of their superiority over whites, who they derisively called ‘Pink’ or ‘t Graauw’ (the Grey’s), were bullied into abstaining the propagation of Black Supremacy. As total revisionism was aimed at, I seriously doubt any documents toward this directive will be found. They would have defeated the revisionist purpose.

    I consider the horrible practice of using white human skin for bookbinding’s by the Black nobility as further proof how some viewed their white subjects. But they still alluded to their black superiority with jewellery and imagery with Moors and what I perceive as cryptic phrases: ‘blue blood,’ ‘not the white hands’ or ‘the purity and eloquence of her blood.’ Austen’s heroines could have only been Blacks as she was Black and her pride was based on her blackness. She considered herself through her accomplishments as a writer combined with her blackness as a true noble. The titled aristocrats are often portrayed in her books as: ‘ill-bred’, ‘sickly and crossed,’ ‘cold,’ ‘insignificant’ and ‘plain and awkward.’ And even the final blow by sweet Anne Elliot: ‘they are nothing.’ Jane Austen who was Black did not renounce Black Superiority if it was enforced by personal brilliance by applying ones talents to become accomplished. Mr. Darcy, the ideal hero who ravaged Eliza Bennet’s heart, was extremely rich, but not a titled noble. His fortune was achieved by trade, thus by accomplishment. And his housekeeper said: `He is the best landlord, and the best master,’ Austen’s family and publishers would have been perceived as promoters of Ancien Regime values and would have placed themselves in great danger if they would have promoted her portrait. Even Austen herself might have experienced ridicule, hatred, violence and harsh rejection based on her Black appearance. Yet through restorations the nobility slashed its way back into power but was finally subdued in 1848. And only then whites came into power, whitewashed European history, and claimed the glory like any conqueror would usurp the spoils of war.

    The absence of a portrait of Jane Austen and the portrayal of her personages by white actresses should be viewed as the ongoing revisionism of history. Any European museum should be regarded as a Church of Revisionism because they show whitened copies, over painted authentic portraits and outright fake images of the black kings and nobles. A practice facilitated by these persons themselves by issuing whitened portraits. A look they did achieved in real life with white face paint and bleaching crèmes. It seems that the views from whites about Blacks were frozen in 1760, when nationhood was hence identified by colour. Queen Alexandra (1844-1925) (1902-1910) was famous for her beauty in advanced age, achieved by a practice called enamelling. She preferred an application of paint which made her pink all over. This technique also prescribed the careful application of blue pigments to the temple veins to heighten the illusion of a translucent, super white skin. Her rather lifeless and ethereal look suggests paralysed facial muscles by mercury derivates, as well. This miraculous vision of beauty was then further enhanced with mysterious veils that blurred the view. Yet there are photographs which show her and her mother, Queen Louise of Denmark, as brown and frizzy haired. Her husband, Edward VII was a son of Queen Victoria, who was a granddaughter of Queen Charlotte-Sophie whose ‘true mulatto’ and ‘brown’ looks were deemed ‘propagandistic’ and gave rise to many comments. Some over painted portraits of the nobility show a solid pink face, and excessive, gruesome blue veins in the face and on the hands. This undoubtedly gave rise to the nonsense about the nobility to be very white and that blue blood meant blue veins showing. It could only be understood that frightened and indoctrinated coloured Europeans took to protecting themselves from the sun with umbrellas, veils and gloves, as Blacks tan easily.

    This article should be understood in connection with my Blue Blood is Black Blood (1500-1789) thread elsewhere on this site and in Google. Any writer writes less then he knows; for sake of brevity, yet all my conclusions are based in facts and argument. Voltaire was accused by his detractors of ‘inventing his own facts.’ What are facts? I reject eurocentrism which is supposedly based in ‘fact’ and ‘empirism’ yet its a fake and evil science to hide the traumatic fact that Europe was a Black Civilisation, with Blacks despotically oppressing whites. Nobody observed Evolution, no one reproduced Evolution, and there are many ‘Missing Links,’ yet to Evolutionist, the Evolution Theory is a fact, as it better explains nature and human descent then Genesis’s Believers can. No one should believe anything; they should research everything by Google. The more sources to confirm a fact, the better. I will post more sources and welcome serious questions from readers. Whites seem to perceive Blacks as biased and therefore not capable to research these matters. But whites do not seem to suffer the same bias when researching the same matter. How come?

    Egmond Codfried
    The Hague
    June 2010

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    The **** kind of quackery is this? Moves form misunderstanding of basic early 19th century language to misrepresenting anthropology, and then something about the Bible in the end... oh ya and a dash of eugenics to boot.

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    That article is a waste of words.

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    Im sorry to say but claiming that the heroines of her novels were of African origin due to the descriptions, is a massive misinterpretation of 18th century english language and how it was used.

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    dafydd dafydd manton's Avatar
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    Somebody pass the laudanum, please. Would it be trite to mention the phrase Eg on one's face?
    Dafydd Manton, A Legend In His Own Lunchtime!! www.dafydd-manton.co.uk

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    The usual liberal wishful thinking but nothing is impossible; after all, we all know that Elvis Presley is alive and well and living on the moon.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    dafydd dafydd manton's Avatar
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    Rubbish - he's alive and well, and working in a chip shop in Rochdale. With Sir Lancelot and Michael Jackson as assistants. King Midas only went in last night for a fishcake and a bag of scraps.
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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    This is very spurious: it betrays a lack of understanding concerning 19th century language and culture.

    As for portraiture, we do have some, and she is manifestly not African. She wasn't from an important or particularly wealthy family, and she never married, so it really isn't unusual that she didn't have many pictures of herself. Portraits of other family members have survived, and they were caucasian as well.
    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    It's not April Fools Day is it? I have to think that maybe it's a wind-up, (check the name).

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    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    I just googled this guy and he really believes it. He should apply for a job with the BBC if he doesn't work there already.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

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    This is wild! I guess I get my amusement for the day.

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    This is mad!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lokasenna View Post
    This is very spurious: it betrays a lack of understanding concerning 19th century language and culture.

    As for portraiture, we do have some, and she is manifestly not African. She wasn't from an important or particularly wealthy family, and she never married, so it really isn't unusual that she didn't have many pictures of herself. Portraits of other family members have survived, and they were caucasian as well.

    Dear Friend, unlike the rest you sound like you really did read Jane Austen and at least read some biographies or secondary literature about Austen. Now I ask you to pay closer attention.

    Just bear with me, and take any book of hers and read that Marianne Dashwood was 'very brown' and mr. Elton: 'Spruce, black and smiling,' beside being handsome, and even pretty, and the vicar of Highbury. Mr. Henry Crawford , rich and accomplished is : 'absolutely plain, black and plain.' But he grows on the ladies Bertram. His sister Mary Crawford is very brown, with lively black eyes. The Bertram sisters are 'fairer.' All Austen's personages are of colour. Jane Fairfax and Mrs. ferrars are sallows. Like Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. Emma Watson from The Watsons is plumb and very brown.

    I'm not making this up friend, its all there in her books. These quotes can also be found in google if you give the name and complexion, brown, black or sallow. Her portrait was judged as 'hideously unlikeness' by her niece and other familymembers. It's a fake portrait.

    I had hoped to find decent and civilised folks on this site, not the usual internet forumtrash. So yall be good! Best wishes from sunny Holland.

    =============================

    Personal descriptions of Jane Austen

    http://www.jasa.net.au/images/austen.htm

    "In person she was very attractive; her figure was rather tall and slender, her step light and firm, and her whole appearance expressive of health and animation. In complexion she was a clear brunette with a rich colour; she had full round cheeks, with mouth and nose small and wellformed bright hazel eyes, and brown hair forming natural curls close round her face."

    James-Edward Austen,
    Jane's nephew

    ~

    "... certainly pretty-bright & a good deal of colour in her face – like a doll – no that would not give at all the idea for she had so much expression – she was like a child – quite a child very lively and full of humour."

    Mr Fowle,
    family friend

    ~

    "... her's was the first face I can remember thinking pretty ... Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally – it was in short curls round her face...Her face was rather round than long – she had a bright but not a pink colour – a clear brown complexion and very good hazel eyes. Her hair, a darkish brown, curled naturally, it was in short curls around her face. She always wore a cap ... before she left Steventon she was established as a very pretty girl, in the opinion of most of her neighbours."

    Caroline Austen,
    Jane's niece

    ~

    "Her hair was dark brown and curled naturally, her large dark eyes were widely opened and expressive. She had clear brown skin and blushed so brightly and so readily."

    An early description of young Jane at Steventon by Sir Egerton Brydges

    ~

    "She was tall and slender; her face was rounded with a clear brunette complexion and bright hazel eyes. Her curly brown hair
    escaped all round her forehead, but from the time of her coming to live at Chawton she always wore a cap, except when her nieces had her in London and forbade it."

    Edward Austen Leigh of Jane's appearence in the years just after the family left Southampton

    ~

    " Her stature rather exceeded the middle height; her carriage and deportment were quiet but graceful; her complexion of the finest texture, it might with truth be said that her eloquent blood spoke through her modest
    cheek."

    " Her pure and eloquent blood spake in her cheeks and so distinctly wrought that you had almost said her body thought."

    Henry Austen said of his sister

    ~
    Last edited by Egmond Codfried; 07-21-2010 at 05:42 AM.

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    dafydd dafydd manton's Avatar
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    Clear Brunette = Afro-Caribbean?
    Clear Brown skin (i.e. sun-tanned) Afro-Caribbean
    Hazel (light brown) eyes?
    Full Round Cheeks (rather than high cheekbones)?

    Perhaps you could explain how one tells that someone of pure African descent is blushing? I would be intrigued.


    As for the suggestion that the vast majority of Litnetters haven't read Jane Eyre, that sort of comment should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

    For some reason that I can't quite fathom, that lovely old English word "Buffoonery" comes to mind.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dafydd manton View Post
    Clear Brunette = Afro-Caribbean?
    Clear Brown skin (i.e. sun-tanned) Afro-Caribbean
    Hazel (light brown) eyes?
    Full Round Cheeks (rather than high cheekbones)?

    Perhaps you could explain how one tells that someone of pure African descent is blushing? I would be intrigued.
    .
    Blacks come in all shapes and colours. Some are very light, some are dark brown and have red cheeks, some even blush. On friend talks about her high cheekbones. Singer Nathalie Cole, nat King Cole's daughter, is one famous black beauty with Hazel eyes, a striking look with some blackskinned persons. But not all Blacks have the same features, in order to be recognized as Black. Some are very fair, have pointed noses or straight hair.

    More important is then a black identity, to identify someone as Black, and this is what I find in her works and letters. By making all her personages coloureds and blacks, and discussing skin bleach, a subject which regards people of colour. Next are her letters with many remarks about blacks. Emma is a allegory about the history of Blacks in Europe. Austen invites us to see the beauty in Blacks. Her family belongs to the gentry and some are quite rich, which show Race and Class interconnected. She lived during the ancien regime, when Blacks ruled, and saw the downturn, after the French Revolution.

    But really, if the personal descriptions on a unsuspected site do not give you pause, I'm afraid nothing will.

    ============================




    Alessandro Nivola as Mr. Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park, described as 'Absolutely plain, black and plain.' Do you see a black man here? He is rich and accomplished, the Bertram girls fall madly in love, and Sir Bertram finds him a suitable husband for his niece Fanny Price.

    His beautiful sister Mary Crawford is 'dark brown' with 'lively black eyes.' The Bertram sisters are 'fairer' then her, and the 'finest' girls in the country.

    http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-...o1/graham.html

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