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Historicizing the Ghostly Sound of a Ghastly Sight: James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie

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Historicizing the Ghostly Sound of a Ghastly Sight: James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie In African American literature, often authors use music as a model of historical recuperation. Frederick Douglass’ The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) and W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk (1903) implicitly argue that spirituals, or sorrow songs, can communicate affective, personal, and social histories. Similarly utilizing a phonic dynamic, James Baldwin’s play, Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), communicates lynching victims’ pain and its causes by transforming the sound of moaning associated with lynching, which signifies grief and suffering, into the articulate speech of the protagonist, Richard Henry.

10.1163/9789401205092_011
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