Winner of the 2015 LGBT Studies award presented by the Lambda Literary Foundation
Scholarsof US and transatlantic slavery have largely ignored or dismissed accusations thatBlack Americans were cannibalized. Vincent Woodard takes the enslavedperson's claims of human consumption seriously, focusing on both the literalstarvation of the slave and the tropes of cannibalism on the part of theslaveholder, and further draws attention to the ways in which Blacksexperienced their consumption as a fundamentally homoerotic occurrence. TheDelectable Negro explores these connections between homoeroticism,cannibalism, and cultures of consumption in the context of American literatureand US slave culture.
Utilizing many staples of African American literature and culture, suchas the slave narratives of OlaudahEquiano, Harriet Jacobs, and Frederick Douglass, as well as other lesscirculated materials like James L. Smith's slave narrative, runaway slaveadvertisements, and numerous articles from Black newspapers published in thenineteenth century, Woodard traces the racial assumptions, politicalaspirations, gender codes, and philosophical frameworks that dictated both Europeanand white American arousal towards Black males and hunger for Black male flesh.Woodard uses these texts to unpack how slaves struggled not only againstsocial consumption, but also against endemic mechanisms of starvation andhunger designed to break them. He concludes with an examination of thecontroversial chain gang oral sex scene in Toni Morrison's Beloved,suggesting that even at the end of the twentieth and beginning of thetwenty-first century, we are still at a loss for language with which todescribe Black male hunger within a plantation culture of consumption.