John Callahan: On "Portrait in Georgia"
. . . if religion failed to keep blacks in subservience, there were other means. "Portrait in Georgia," the sequel to "Conversion," uses the figure-ground pattern to expose the white southern obsession behind the blood sacrifice of lynching. Through Toomer's newly made eyes, the image of a southern belle dissolves into a black man tortured and burned alive at the stake. One by one, the woman's features yield to the paraphernalia of lynching, until in a final chilling montage her white body becomes a simile for the black victim:
And her slim body, white as the ash
of black flesh after flame.
The poem's silent imagery summons the black folk voices of "Blood-Burning Moon" that improvise desperately against the spell of violence hovering over the land as pregnantly as the full "red nigger moon."
|Title||John Callahan: On "Portrait in Georgia"||Type of Content||Criticism|
|Criticism Author||John Callahan||Criticism Target||Jean Toomer|
|Criticism Type||Poet||Originally Posted||14 Jun 2020|
|Publication Status||Excerpted Criticism||Publication||In The African-American Grain: The Pursuit of Voice in Twentieth-Century Black Fiction|
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