Iola Leroy (1893) Characters and Settings
A Coggle Diagram about Southern "White" Community: people of European descent who are afforded socioeconomic privileges because of their skin color in the Southern United States
Miss Nancy/Mrs. Johnson: Robert, Aunt Linda, and Jinny's former master; had sold Robert's mother (34); taught Robert to read; looked much older now, less brightness in her eyes (150); Went broke (158); Husband drank himself to death, spent money on alcohol and would ask colored people for money (158); Shocked that Robert left her (151); Justified having a slave by treating him well (151); Socially doesn't know treat the black people know that they're free (151);
Mr. Anderson: Tom's former master; retired politician; a secessionist, through and through (33); his son, Tom, owns Iola; Drank himself to death (153);
Gundover: Aunt Katie's slave owner; an incidental character in Uncle Jack's story (135-137); becomes unsettled when a preacher connects slavery to the Final Judgment (137); Died; Place was in debt and had to be sold (155);
Northern born mistresses: Although born in the North, these mistresses acclimate readily to the South's peculiar institution (Harper 64)
Louis Bastine: Lorraine's lawyer/lackey; goes North to bring Iola home; reduces Iola's personhood to "property" and "tigress" (101-02; 104); attempts a pass at a sleeping Iola (103)
Camille LeCroix: Bastine's acquaintance; provides counternarratives to Southern racial stigmas: "Why can poor, illiterate whites be accepted into proper society, but educated, beautiful girl with 'cursed blood' is forever barred" (100-101)?
poor, "white" Southerners: fight for the Confederacy through ignorance; Captain Sybil calls them "a mass of ignorance, led, manipulated, and moulded by educated and ambitious wickedness" (132); despite being poor in an hierarchy of power and wealth, they have bought into a racial hierarchy that affords them more privileges than slaves/freemen.
Dr. Latrobe: Thinks the negro will always be a problem (222); "White Supremacist"; Wants to suppress the Black people's right to vote (224); Thinks slavery helped the black community (225); Thinks the war was a huge mistake (229); Thinks he can "detect a trace of negro blood" (239); Equalizing with them will ruin white social customs (238); Admires Dr. Latimer (237); Outraged when he finds out Dr. Latimer is colored (239)
, Iola's Family
Eugene Leroy: To what extent does he underestimate cultural/legistlative interference with his marriage? Freed Marie from slavery then allowed her to go up north to get an education. Wanted gradual emancipation (86); Very careful to keep his kids unaware of their race, wouldn't even let them visit (87);
Marie: How does she understand better than her husband the inherent problems with living in the South and being in an interracial marriage? Feels threatened by Lorraine, even while Leroy was alive (89-90/ 106); strongly believed/ leaned on the fact that she was his "lawful wife"(90); after Eugene's death, Lorraine places her in Vicksburg; makes confections and preserves; finds Harry in an army hospital; moves North to live with Harry and Mrs. Harriet Johnson;
Alfred Lorraine: Selfish, eager, keen, and alert, hard, cold, methodical. Power hungry, makes comment to Eugene about being satisfied with power and possessions the law gives. "Rank Secessionist" (89); Meddling/ backstabbing to Eugene (95); dies before the surrender of Vicksburg;
Gracie: Iola's little sister; succumbs to brain fever; her name and death represent the beginning of Iola's darkest period
Mrs. Harriet Johnson: Robert and Marie's mother; Miss Nancy sold her and Marie when Robert was young; Robert identifies her at a church conference near C--, North Carolina; lives with Robert in P--;
, Southern "Black" Community: people of African descent who are/were enslaved in the Southern United States because of their skin color
Civil war has come to and end. African Americans have been freed.Aunt Linda: Slave within the Johnson house; friend of Robert, Tom, and Uncle Daniel; has visions of freedom (12;13)
She creates her own way of earning money by baking. Supported herself while John Anderson her husband was away at war (154).
Tom Anderson: Slave for Mr. Anderson; relates information about the contraband order to the prayer meeting group; works as a laborer for the Union army (40); loves Iola (40); dies; Doesn't trust the white community (25)
Uncle Daniel: An elderly slave; desires freedom, but will not leave his master's house; holds a personal attachment to Robert Thurston, whom he has raised (24-5)...; but he won't betray the other slaves who seek their freedom (29); Wants to be true to his word/ faithful (31);
Aunt Katie: Uncle Daniel's wife; owned by a neighbor, Gundover; when her baby died, she had to tend the dairy (27); her face "expressed the idea of a soul which had been fearfully tempest tossed, but had passed through suffering into peace" (28) Endured cruelty from her master (27)
Ben Tunnel: a large, unbroken man; his wife left him to live with a slave trader (29-30); desires freedom, but refuses to leave his mother (30-1); "Passionate Devotion" to his mother (shows importance of family to the slaves) (31);
Aunt Kizzy: Very religious, uses religion as a tool for survival in hardship (47-48); described as a happy soul even though her only child was sold (47);
Jack: A slave mentioned by Robert, who argues for that he is a better Christian than Master Gundover and his overseer, because notwithstanding his stealing and lying, he does so to help his neighbor and family (135-37); an example for Robert's claim that "we colored folks used to get mightily mixed up about our religion" (135).
John Andrews/Salters: Aunt Linda's husband; Served in Robert's company during the war; Uses his army pay and bounty money, along with Aunt Linda's baking sales, to purchase a small plot of land; In business, he uses his master's last name (Andrews), but in his personal life, he goes by Salters
Miss Delaney: A biracial young woman/friend to Harry and Iola; opens a school for domestic arts; marries Harry
, Iola Leroy
*Female protagonist; saved from slavery during the Civil War (39); physical appearance makes her desirable by slave owners (38); Gentle, compassionate, diligent, loving, modest (40); Known for her "spitfire" attitude to her masters; subjected to sexual violence by her masters (38-9); works as an army nurse (39) She's the perfect women, nurse, person, etc., regardless of her race. But her race makes her face hardships of being controlled by others. At one point she's ok with slavery because of how her father and mother treat the slaves on their plantations (97). She says that they are better off with their family then being in the real world. Quote " I use to say that slavery is right. I didn't know what I was talking about" (106). When coming to the realization of her heritage, she is dumb founded and has a new perspective on slavery.
Rejects Dr. Gresham's proposal, even though she loves him; through her experiences, she has identified with her mother's people (114); proposes to teach, while also looking for her mother (142-43)
Iola becomes a teacher in the basement of a colored church (146).
School gets burned down to ashes. "One night the heavens were lighted with lurid flames..." (147).
Found out that Robert is her uncle. (Examples in both chapter 16 and pg.197)
African American church during the Civil War Era. It also includes a teacher and her students
Iola becomes a teacher, but her schoolhouse is burned down; finds her grandmother at a church conference near C--, North Carolina; reunites with her mother and brother at a church conference in S--, Georgia; teaches briefly at Miss Delany's school, but moves North for health reasons; Determines to find gainful employment (205; 210); encounters Northern prejudice (206; 207; 209); Finds a place at Mr. Cloten's store (211)
Iola had another proposal of marriage from Dr. Greshum. She again turns him down due to differences in views. Iola can't t passed the barrier between them, that being the barrier of race (230).
Iola develops a friendship with Dr. Latimer and blossoms into marriage (274-275).
, Other Main Characters
Robert Johnson: Former slave turned soldier; taught to read by his former master; symbolizes signifyin' (16); rejects suggestion to pass as white for promotion (43); Rejects "white" Christianity, because it justifies slavery (48); "I believe in real, genuine religion" (47); participates, and is wounded, in the Battle of Five Forks; Iola supposes him to be her maternal uncle (141-42); "To bind anew the ties which slavery had broken and gather together the remnants of his scattered family became the earnest purpose of his life" (148); a handsome man with a heavy moustache, dark earnest eyes, and proud military bearing (151); finds mother at a church conference in C--, North Carolina; finds suitable housing for his mother and he through selective passing (190); moves back to C--, North Carolina, and converts a large plantation into small homesteads for struggling African-American farmers
Harry: Iola's brother; an racist encounter with some neighborhood children (who used a racial epithet) encourages Eugene and Marie to send Harry and Iola North (80-1); attends a school in Maine; Bastine has not received orders from Lorraine to capture Harry (102); Iola writes him a letter that discloses his heritage (106-07); Harry swoons upon reading Iola's letter, suggesting an inversion of melodramatic gender roles (121); identifies with his mother's people, after some mental exercises (125-126); observing the slave "as an object of pity" proves more difficult than identifying with them, but Harry's love for his mother and sister is stronger than his prejudices (126); fights for the Union, in the Western theater (Battle of Vicksburg); finds Marie in an army hospital; becomes a leader and educator in Georgia; Marie fears that Harry will be lynched for his activism (202); Harry proposes marriage to Ms. Delaney (276-78)
, Union soldiers/doctors:
General Benjamin "Beast" Butler: Mentioned in chapter two; known for advocating the capture of fugitive slaves as "contraband;"
Captain Sybil: from Maine; Religious man(pg.47),young officer, good friends with Robert, Mother was a Quaker preacher whose congregation was black and white and he joined because he wasn't racist. (pg.48) He is killed in the Battle of Five Forks (139)
Colonel Robinson: Commander of the Post, informs Dr. Gresham of Iola's past, and is very protective of her past. Demonstrates abolitionist leanings in chapter fifteen, in which he condemns the Emancipation Proclamation for not ending slavery in loyal border states (130). He refers to slavery as a serpent (130).
, Map Key
The following map was prepared by Mr. Lemon's Fall 2016 Introduction to Fiction. It primarily uses the Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers' edition for quotations. The map seeks to visualize the movement and relationships between characters. Also, students have found and annotated historical and artistic images for the novel's characters and themes. Students identified images from Wikimedia Commons, UC-Davis' History Project, and searches on Google. Production and use of this map are for educational purposes.
Thread Colors and Significance:
Settings (green): land and movement
Iola (yellow): hope
Iola's family (light purple):
Iola's suitors (pink): romance
Main characters (orange): proximity to Iola
Southern "Black" Community (Light Blue): freedom's dawn
Southern "White" Community (green): agriculture/jealousy
Northern "White" Community (dark purple): industry
Union Soldiers (dark blue): Union colors
Questions (purple): no significance
Contributors: Morgan A., Muneer A. Katelyn B., Lauren D. Maria D., Dillon E., Alex F., Samantha F., Shannon H., Eric K., Rachelle K., Chris L., Mr. Lemon, Osvaldo M., Zaira P., Brianna R., Matt R., Brittnee T., Josh T., Tyler T., Gabi V., Miranda W., Jaycie Y.
, Novel's Settings:
Ch. 1-8; 13; 15; 18-20; 33: C--, North Carolina
(A North Carolina home in the 1800s)
Ch. 9-12: Louisiana or Mississippi (?)
Ch. 14: Maine; Mississippi
Ch. 16-17: Five Forks, Virginia
Ch. 21; 24; 25-32: P--, Unknown Northern State
Ch. 22-23: A--, Georgia
Ch. 24: H--, Unknown New England State
- If Iola Leroy is desirable by slave owners because of her mixed-ethnic beauty, why is miscegenation looked down upon?
- What motivates her to carry on regardless of her hardships?
- Were there miscegenation laws at this time?
- Could Dr.Gresham marry Iola legally?
- Does Religion portray a knowledge barrier amongst the slaves?
- Consider the following quote: "I think one of the great mistakes of our civilization is that which makes color, and not character, a social test" (Harper 84). What do you make of this sentiment?
- How will Iolas' experience impact her perspective on Christianity and other religions?
- When does Iola's character development begin?
- Why does Iola choose Dr. Latimer for her spouse? Does his complexion become a factor in her decision: why or why not?
- How does 19th-century sentimentalism function within Harper's novel?
- Why did Harper write this novel (282)? In your opinion, does she achieve her mission?