Negro Hollow|Freedman Town (Location Key)

Code: 
167
Description: 

Many of the blacks who work as domestics for the upper class families in Jefferson live in cabins behind their employers' big houses, but the larger Negro population of the town is mostly concentrated in a district variously named "Freedman Town (Light in August, 114)," "The Hollow" (Intruder in the Dust, 38), and - using an offensive term that reminds us which race got to decide what to call people and places in Yoknapatawpha - "Nigger Hollow" (The Sound and the Fury, 302). Actually, Intruder refers to "the Hollow and Freedmantown," suggesting that they are two different places. This was the case for the black population in Faulkner's hometown of Oxford, and a good case can be made for putting two 'Negro districts' on the map of Jefferson. (See for example Charles S. Aiken's map in William Faulkner and the Southern Landscape, 13). But except for that phrase in Intruder the fictions never make such a distinction explicit, and an equally good case can be made for the conclusion that all the descriptions of the black part of Jefferson refer to the same section of town, more or less exactly where Oxford's Freedmen Town was during Faulkner's time. That was in an area between the Square and the railroad tracks. In "Knight's Gambit" Charles Mallison sees this "shabby purlieu" of Jefferson from the window of his train as he returns to town during World War II: its "Negro cabins" are "awry: not out of plumb [but] beyond plumb," set amidst a "miniature jungle of vegetable patch," "flimsy and make-shift, alien yet inviolably durable" (252-53). It is set considerably below the plateau on which the Square and most of the town itself are built. When Dilsey and her family, with Benjy, pass through this section on their way to church: "A street turned at right angles, descending, and became a dirt road. On either hand the land dropped more sharply; a broad flat dotted with small cabins whose weathered roofs were on a level with the crown of the road"; on the "small grassless plots littered with broken things" grow "rank weeds" and "trees that partake of the foul disiccation which surrounded the houses" (The Sound and the Fury, 290-91). The most vivid description of the district experiences it from the perspective of Joe Christmas, who walks through it in the dark - and enveloped in his own profound uncertainty about his racial identity. As he descends into it, the unpaved, often rutted roads and lanes are lit by streetlights that "seem to be further spaced" than in other sections of Jefferson, emphasizing rather than dispelling the darkness (114). Small cabins, felt rather than seen by Joe as "cabinshapes," are built into the neighborhood's hollows and hills; they are lighted by kerosene rather than electricity. While there, Christmas senses "invisible negroes" that "enclose" him, suggesting that the neighborhood is densely populated and noisy with human activity (114). A deep ravine runs through the middle of it, which the narrative refers to as the "abyss itself" (116).

Display Name: 
Negro Hollow|Freedman Town
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Negro Hollow|Freedman Town
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digyok:node/location_key/2527