Margie Lawson

Changing your Writing World

The Psychology of Black Characters - historical version

At Point Comfort in 1619, more than a dozen enslaved Black men were bought to the shores of Virginia and the history of Blackness in the United States was established. There are three distinct time periods to think about and I will address them, depending upon what you are writing about: 1619-1800, 1800-1865, 1865-1950.

  • 1619-1800—Enslavement existed side by side with Indentured Servitude and there was a period of some freedom and true agency
  • 1800-1865—The most confining period of enslavement, subject to numerous laws and rules designed to break the spirit of Black people in the United States—whether they were enslaved or not.
  • 1865-1950’s—Jim Crow United States. Free on paper, but not free in the world. According to scholars like Douglas Blackmon, true enslavement existed to FDR’s time. This psychological enslavement had large impact on the formerly enslaved.

We are covering hundreds of years of a complex subject in just four weeks. However, after this short time period, you will learn some aspects of the psychology of what it is to be Black in the United States between 1619-1950. You will leave the class with resources to continue your study beyond this rudimentary course.

Having taught at HBCU schools for most of my academic career, I’ve structured this course as a sampling of what is usually taught to students over two semesters. The development of the internal mindset for millions of people is far from cohesive, and varies, but this class can be viewed as a starting point.

What you will learn in the course:

  • The Mask you can never take off—What Blackness means in history
  • The Black Family—A new definition of family
  • Black Male Adulthood—The confinement of Jim Crow, Sambo, Mandingo stereotypes
  • Black Female Adulthood—Abolishing Jezebel and Mammy

Who should take this course:

  • Authors who are curious about Black historical psychology
  • Authors who are BEGINNING to think about writing historical Black characters
  • Anyone who is curious about Blackness as an entity in the United States from 1619-1950’s

Teacher

Piper Huguley

Piper G Huguley is a two-time Golden Heart ®finalist and is the author of “Migrations of the Heart,” a three-book series of historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters. Book #1 in the series, A Virtuous Ruby, has won Best Historical in the Swirl Awards. Book #3 in the series, A Treasure of Gold, was named by Romance Novels in Color as a Best Book, received 4 ½ stars from RT Magazine, and won an Emma Award for best historical romance.

Huguley is also the author of the “Home to Milford College” series. The series follows the building of a college from its founding in 1866. Book #1 in the series, The Preacher’s Promise was named a top ten Historical Romance in Publisher’s Weekly by the esteemed historical romance author, Beverly Jenkins and received Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Contest of Self-Published e-books.

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son. Her biographical historical novel about Ann Lowe, the Black fashion designer who created Jacki Kennedy’s wedding gown, will be released from William Morrow in Winter 2022.

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