Literary critics have often wondered
why the two novels of Emma Dunham
Kelley-Hawkins, whose works are
collected in the Schomburg Library of
Nineteenth-Century Black Women's
Writers, feature characters repeatedly
described as having blue eyes, blonde
hair, and snow-white skin (and contain
only fleeting references to ''colored''
characters, usually servants). Critics
have suggested that her characters
would have been understood as ''white
mulattos,'' and even that the novels may
have depicted a kind of post-racial utopia.
What follow are some particularly
striking examples which read very
differently in light of newly uncovered
archival evidence suggesting that Kelley-Hawkins wasn't African-American.
''Meg answered him with a smile and a nod and turned to a girl who had a mass
of golden hair braided loosely and wound round her head. . . . Her skin was dazzling
white, without one tinge of pink in it. This was Dell Manton, the beauty of the
town.'' ''Megda'' (1891)
'' 'Goodness!' exclaimed Dell, 'You are the color of marble. It must be because your
hair is brushed back from your forehead.'
'She looks just as Lady Macbeth should look,' said Laurie, with quick, jealous
fondness. 'The whiter the better!' '' ''Megda''
''Her sweet face was as white as the lilies, and as pure; her blue eyes shone brightly
through her veil, and the pretty, soft, fluffy 'bangs' glistened like golden
''. . . Vera sat there with the electric light shining on her golden hair and fair
face.'' ''Four Girls at Cottage City'' (1895)