Pratt’s essay explores how Frederick Douglass responded to the expanding racial segregation of the United States and the inhospitality to “colored” strangers that it represented by occupying and then refiguring the persona of the stranger. Douglass, Pratt notes, also asked his readers to become strangers in return. In this way Douglass constructed a virtual realm conducive to encounters among strangers that were predicated on mutual self-revelation rather than cross-identification. The variable extant meanings of strangerhood in this period meant that such gestures were not without their risks. Yet Douglass undertook to construct a new account of the human in which a reformed vision of strangerhood could found a revitalized democratic culture.

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