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African-American literature

tual narrative. The spiritual addressed many of the same

themes of slave narratives, but has been largely ignored
in current scholarly conversation.[2]
At the turn of the 20th century, non-ction works by authors such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington debated whether to confront or appease racist attitudes in the United States. During the American Civil
Rights movement, authors such as Richard Wright and
Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about issues of racial segregation and black nationalism. Today, African-American
literature has become accepted as an integral part of
American literature, with books such as Roots: The Saga
of an American Family by Alex Haley, The Color Purple
(1982) by Alice Walker, which won the Pulitzer Prize;
and Beloved by Toni Morrison achieving both best-selling
and award-winning status.
In broad terms, African-American literature can be dened as writings by people of African descent living in
the United States. It is highly varied.[3] African-American
literature has generally focused on the role of African
Americans within the larger American society and what it
means to be an American.[4] As Princeton University professor Albert J. Raboteau has said, all African-American
study speaks to the deeper meaning of the AfricanAmerican presence in this nation. This presence has always been a test case of the nations claims to freedom,
democracy, equality, the inclusiveness of all.[4] AfricanAmerican literature explores the issues of freedom and
equality long denied to Blacks in the United States, along
with further themes such as African-American culture,
racism, religion, slavery, a sense of home,[5] segregation,
migration, feminism, and more. African-American literature presents the African-American experience from an
African-American point of view. In the early Republic,
African-American literature represented a way for free
blacks to negotiate their new identity in an individualized
republic. They often tried to exercise their political and
social autonomy in the face of resistance from the white
public.[6] Thus, an early theme of African-American literature was, like other American writings, what it meant
to be a citizen in post-Revolutionary America.

Toni Morrison in 2008

African-American literature is the body of literature

produced in the United States by writers of African descent. It begins with the works of such late 18th-century
writers as Phillis Wheatley. Before the high point of
slave narratives, African-American literature was dominated by autobiographical spiritual narratives. AfricanAmerican literature reached early high points with slave
narratives of the nineteenth century. The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was a time of owering of literature and the arts. Writers of African-American literature
have been recognized by the highest awards, including the
Nobel Prize to Toni Morrison. Among the themes and
issues explored in this literature are the role of African
Americans within the larger American society, AfricanAmerican culture, racism, slavery, and social equality.
African-American writing has tended to incorporate oral
forms, such as spirituals, sermons, gospel music, blues, or
As African Americans place in American society has
changed over the centuries, so, has the focus of AfricanAmerican literature. Before the American Civil War, the
literature primarily consisted of memoirs by people who
had escaped from slavery; the genre of slave narratives
included accounts of life under slavery and the path of
justice and redemption to freedom. There was an early
distinction between the literature of freed slaves and the
literature of free blacks who had been born in the North.
Free blacks had to express their oppression in a dierent narrative form. Free blacks in the North often spoke
out against slavery and racial injustices using the spiri-

1 Characteristics and themes

African-American literature has both been inuenced by
the great African diasporic heritage[7] and shaped it in
many countries. It has been created within the larger
realm of post-colonial literature, although scholars dis1


tinguish between the two, saying that African American literature diers from most post-colonial literature
in that it is written by members of a minority community
who reside within a nation of vast wealth and economic
African-American oral culture is rich in poetry, including spirituals, gospel music, blues, and rap. This oral
poetry also appears in the African-American tradition
of Christian sermons, which make use of deliberate
repetition, cadence, and alliteration. African-American
literatureespecially written poetry, but also prosehas
a strong tradition of incorporating all of these forms of
oral poetry.[9] These characteristics do not occur in all
works by African-American writers.
Some scholars resist using Western literary theory to analyze African-American literature. As the Harvard literary scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. said, My desire
has been to allow the black tradition to speak for itself about its nature and various functions, rather than to
read it, or analyze it, in terms of literary theories borrowed whole from other traditions, appropriated from
without.[10] One trope common to African-American literature is Signication. Gates claims that signifying is
a trope in which are subsumed several other rhetorical
tropes, including metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and
irony, and also hyperbole an litotes, and metalepsis.[11]
Signication also refers to the way in which AfricanAmerican authors read and critique other African American texts in an act of rhetorical self-denition[12]


Early African-American literature

Phillis Wheatley

her for a poem written in his honor. Some whites found

it hard to believe that a Black woman could write such
rened poetry. Wheatley had to defend herself in court
to prove that she had written her work. Some critics cite
Wheatleys successful defense as the rst recognition of
African-American literature.[14] As a result of the skepticism surrounding her work, Poems on Various Subjects
oers its reader several introductory documents designed
to authenticate Wheatley and her poetry and to substantiate her literary motives.[15]

African-American history predates the emergence of the Another early African-American author was Jupiter
United States as an independent country, and African- Hammon (17111806?). Hammon, considered the rst
American literature has similarly deep roots.
published Black writer in America, published his poem
Lucy Terry is the author of the oldest known piece of An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries as a broadside in early 1761. In 1778 he wrote
African-American literature, Bars Fight. Terry wrote
the ballad in 1746 after an Indian attack on Deereld. an ode to Phillis Wheatley, in which he discussed their
shared humanity and common bonds.
She was enslaved in Deereld at the time of the attack.
The ballad was rst published in 1854, with an additional In 1786, Hammon gave his extquotedblAddress to the
couplet, in The Springeld Republican[13] and in 1855 in Negroes of the State of New York extquotedbl. Writing
Josiah Hollands History of Western Massachusetts.
at the age of 76 after a lifetime of slavery, Hammon said:
The poet Phillis Wheatley (175384) published her book If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall nd nobody to
Poems on Various Subjects in 1773, three years before reproach us for being black, or for being slaves. He also
idea of a gradual emancipation as a way to
American independence. Wheatley was not only the rst promoted the
Hammon is thought to have been a slave
African American to publish a book, but also the rst to
In the 19th century, his speech was later
achieve an international reputation as a writer. Born in
abolitionist groups.
Senegal, Wheatley was captured and sold into slavery at
the age of seven. Brought to America, she was owned by
a Boston merchant. By the time she was sixteen, she had
mastered her new language of English. Her poetry was
praised by many of the leading gures of the American
Revolution, including George Washington, who thanked

William Wells Brown (181484) and Victor Sjour

(181774) produced the earliest works of ction by
African-American writers. Sjour was born free in New
Orleans and moved to France at the age of 19. There
he published his short story extquotedblLe Multre ex-


Frederick Douglass

tquotedbl (The Mulatto) in 1837. It is the rst known

ction by an African American, but as it was written in
French and published in a French journal, it had apparently no inuence on later American literature. Sjour
never returned to African-American themes in his subsequent works.[17]

to describe the cruelties of life under slavery, as well as
the persistent humanity of the slaves as persons. At the
time, the controversy over slavery led to impassioned literature on both sides of the issue, with novels such as
Uncle Toms Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowes
representing the abolitionist view of the evils of slavery.
Southern white writers produced the extquotedblAntiTom extquotedbl novels in response, purporting to truly
describe life under slavery, as well as the more severe
cruelties suered by free labor in the North. Examples include Aunt Philliss Cabin (1852) by Mary Henderson Eastman and The Sword and the Dista (1853) by
William Gilmore Simms.

Brown, on the other hand, was a prominent abolitionist,

lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian in the United
States. Born into slavery in the South, Brown escaped to
the North, where he worked for abolitionist causes and
was a prolic writer. Brown wrote Clotel; or, The Presidents Daughter (1853), considered to be the rst novel
written by an African American. It was based on the
persistent rumor that president Thomas Jeerson had fa- The slave narratives were integral to African-American
thered a daughter with his slave Sally Hemings. The novel literature. Some 6,000 former slaves from North Amerwas rst published in England.[18]
ica and the Caribbean wrote accounts of their lives, with
150 of these published as separate books or pamThe rst African-American novel published in the United
Slave narratives can be broadly categorized into
States was Harriet Wilson's Our Nig (1859). It expressed
forms: tales of religious redemption, tales
the diculties of lives of northern free Blacks. Our Nig
abolitionist struggle, and tales of progress.
was rediscovered and republished by Henry Louis Gates,
to inspire the abolitionist struggle are
Jr., in the early 1980s. He labeled the work ction and arthe
they tend to have a strong autogued that it may be the rst novel published by an Africanbiographical
of them are now recognized as
Parallels between Wilsons narrative and
writings by African
her life have been discovered. This has led some scholAmericans,
being Frederick
ars to argue that the work is in fact autobiographical.
in the Life of a
Despite these disagreements, Our Nig is a literary work
which speaks to the dicult life of free blacks in the
North who were indentured servants. Our Nig is also a Jacobs (18131897) was born a slave in Edenton, North
counter-narrative to the sentimental novel and mother- Carolina and was the rst woman to author a slave narcentered novel of the 19th century.[21]
rative in the United States. Although her narrative InAnother recently discovered work of early African- cidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was written under
American literature is The Bondwomans Narrative, the pseudonym Linda Brent, the autobiography can be
which was written by Hannah Crafts between 1853 and traced through a series of letters from Jacobs to various
1860. Crafts was a fugitive slave. If it was written in friends and advisors, most importantly to Lydia Maria
1853 then it would be the rst African-American novel Child, the eventual editor of incidents. The narrative dewritten in the United States. The novel was republished in tails Jacobs struggle for freedom, not only for herself but
2002 with an introduction by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The for her two children. Jacobs narrative occupies an imporwork was never published during Crafts lifetime. Some tant place in the history of African-American literature as
speculate this occurred because she did not have entry it discloses through her rsthand example the special ininto the publishing world.[22] The novel situates itself justices that black women suered under slavery.
between slave narratives and the sentimental novel.[23]
Crafts novel is important because it rethinks the genre of
the slave narrative. There is some evidence that the nar- 2.3 Frederick Douglass
rative was serialized and bears resemblances to Charles
Dickens style.[24] Many critics are still attempting to Main article: Frederick Douglass
decode its literary signicance and establish its contribu- Frederick Douglass (c. 181895) rst came to public
attention in the North as an orator for abolition and as the
tions to the study of early African-American literature.
author of a moving slave narrative. He eventually became
the most prominent African American of his time and one
of the most inuential lecturers and authors in American
2.2 Slave narratives
Main article: slave narrative
Born into slavery in Maryland, Douglass eventually esA genre of African-American literature that developed
in the middle of the 19th century is the slave narrative,
accounts written by fugitive slaves about their lives in the
South and, often, after escaping to freedom. They wanted

caped and worked for numerous abolitionist causes. He

also edited a number of newspapers. Douglass bestknown work is his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of
Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which was published in 1845. At the time some critics attacked the

ing the Epistle of James, often calling themselves doers of the word.[27] The study of these women and
their spiritual narratives are signicant to the understanding of African-American life in the Antebellum North
because they oer both historical context and literary
tropes. Women who wrote these narratives had a clear
knowledge of literary genres and biblical narratives. This
contributed to advancing their message about AfricanAmerican womens agency and countered the dominant
racist and sexist discourse of early American society.
Zilpha Elaw was born in 1790 in America to free parents.
She was a preacher for ve years in England without the
support of a denomination.[28] She published her Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travel
and Labours of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw, an American Female
of Colour in 1846, while still living in England. Her narrative was meant to be an account of her spiritual experience. Yet some critics argue that her work was also
meant to be a literary contribution.[29] Elaw aligns herself in a literary tradition of respectable women of her
time who were trying to combat the immoral literature of
the time.[30]

Frederick Douglass

book, not believing that a black man could have written such an eloquent work. Despite this, the book was
an immediate bestseller. Douglass later revised and expanded his autobiography, which was republished as My
Bondage and My Freedom (1855). In addition to serving in a number of political posts during his life, he also
wrote numerous inuential articles and essays.


Spiritual narratives

Early African-American spiritual autobiographies were

published in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Authors of these narratives include James Gronniosaw, John
Marrant, and George White. William L. Andrews argues that these early narratives gave the twin themes
of the Afro-American 'pregeneric myth'knowledge and
freedomtheir earliest narrative form.[25] These spiritual narratives were important predecessors of the slave
narratives which proliferated the literary scene of the
19th century. These spiritual narratives have often been
left out of the study of African-American literature because some scholars have deemed them historical or sociological documents, despite their importance to understanding African-American literature as a whole.[26]

Maria W. Stewart published a collection of her religious

writings with an autobiographical experience attached in
1879. The publication was called Meditations from the
Pen of Mrs. Maria W. Stewart. She also had two works
published in 1831 and 1832 titled Religion and the Pure
Principles of Morality and Meditations. Maria Stewart was
known for her public speeches in which she talked about
the role of black women and race relations.[31] Her works
were praised by Alexander Crummell and William Lloyd
Garrison. Stewarts works have been argued to be a refashioning of the jeremiad tradition and focus on the specic plight of African Americans in America during the
Jarena Lee published two religious autobiographical narratives: The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee
and Religious Experience and Journal of Mrs. Jarena
Lee. These two narratives were published in 1836 and
1849 respectively. Both works spoke about Lees life
as a preacher for the African Methodist Church. But
her narratives were not endorsed by the Methodists because a woman preaching was contrary to their church
doctrine.[33] Some critics argue that Lees contribution
to African-American literature lies in her disobedience
to the patriarchal church system and her assertion of
womens rights within the Methodist Church.[34]

Nancy Prince was born in 1799, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and was of African and Native American descent. She turned to religion at the age of 16 in an
attempt to nd comfort from the trials of her life.[35]
She married Nero Prince and traveled extensively in the
West Indies and Russia. She became a missionary and
African-American women who wrote spiritual narratives in 1841 she tried to raise funds for missionary work
had to negotiate the precarious positions of being black in the West Indies, publishing a pamphlet entitled The
and women in early America. Women claimed their au- West Indies: Being a Description of the Islands, Progress
thority to preach and write spiritual narratives by cit-


Post-slavery era

of Christianity, Education, and Liberty Among the Colored Population Generally. Later, in 1850, she published A Narrative of the Life and Travels of Mrs. Nancy
Prince. These publications were both spiritual narratives
and travel narratives.[36] Similar to Jarena Lee, Prince adhered to the standards of Christian religion by framing
her unique travel narrative in a Christian perspective.[37]
Yet, her narrative poses a counter narrative to the 19th
centurys ideal of a demure woman who had no voice in
society and little knowledge of the world.

sented opposite views from Du Bois. Washington was

an educator and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, a
historically black college in Alabama. Among his published works are Up From Slavery (1901), The Future
of the American Negro (1899), Tuskegee and Its People
(1905), and My Larger Education (1911). In contrast to
Du Bois, who adopted a more confrontational attitude
toward ending racial strife in America, Washington believed that Blacks should rst lift themselves up and prove
themselves the equal of whites before asking for an end
to racism. While this viewpoint was popular among some
Sojourner Truth (17971883) was a leading advocate in
both the abolitionist and feminist movements in the 19th Blacks (and many whites) at the time, Washingtons political views would later fall out of fashion.
century. Born Isabella to a wealthy Dutch master in Ulster County, New York, she adopted the name Sojourner Elizabeth Keckley (18181907) was a former slave who
Truth after forty years of struggle, rst to attain her free- managed to establish a successful career as a dressmaker
dom and then to work on the mission she felt God in- who catered to the Washington political elite after obtaintended for her. This new name was to signify the new ing her freedom. However, soon after publishing Behind
person she had become in the spirit, a traveler dedicated the Scenes; or, Thirty Years as a Slave and Four Years in
to speaking the Truth as God revealed it.[38] Truth played the White House, she lost her job and found herself rea signicant role during the Civil War. She worked tire- duced to doing odd jobs. Although she acknowledged
lessly on several civil rights fronts; she recruited black the cruelties of her enslavement and her resentment totroops in Michigan, helped with relief eorts for freed- wards it, Keckley chose to focus her narrative on the inmen and women escaping from the South, led a successful cidents that moulded her character, and on how she
eort to desegregate the streetcars in Washington, D.C., proved herself worth her salt.[41] Behind the Scenes deand she counseled President Abraham Lincoln. Truth tails Keckleys life in slavery, her work for Mary Todd
never learned to read or write but in 1850, she worked Lincoln and her eorts to obtain her freedom. Keckwith Oliver Gilbert, a sympathetic white woman, to write ley was also deeply committed to programs of racial imthe Narrative of Sojourner Truth. This narrative was a provement and protection and helped found the Home for
contribution to both the slave narrative and female spiri- Destitute Women and Children in Washington, D.C., as a
tual narratives.
result. In addition to this, Keckley taught at Wilberforce
University in Ohio.


Post-slavery era

After the end of slavery and the American Civil War,

a number of African-American authors wrote nonction works about the condition of African Americans
in the United States. Many African-American women
wrote about the principles of behavior of life during the
Among the most prominent of these writers is W. E. B.
Du Bois (18681963), who had a doctorate in sociology from Harvard University, and was one of the original founders of the NAACP in 1910. At the turn of the
century, Du Bois published a highly inuential collection
of essays entitled The Souls of Black Folk. The essays
on race were groundbreaking and drew from Du Boiss
personal experiences to describe how African Americans
lived in rural Georgia and in the larger American society.
Du Bois wrote: The problem of the twentieth century is
the problem of the color-line,[40] a statement since considered prescient. Du Bois believed that African Americans should, because of their common interests, work together to battle prejudice and inequity. He was a professor at Atlanta University and later at Howard University.

Josephine Brown (born 1839), the youngest child of abolitionist and author William Wells Brown, wrote a biography of her father, Biography of an American Bondman,
By His Daughter. Brown wrote the rst ten chapters of
the narrative while studying in France, as a means of satisfying her classmates curiosity about her father. After
returning to America, she discovered that the narrative
of her fathers life, written by him, and published a few
years before, was out of print and thus produced the rest
of the chapters that constitute Biography of an American
Bondman. Brown was a qualied teacher but she was also
extremely active as an advocate against slavery.

Although not a US citizen, the Jamaican Marcus Garvey (18871940), was a newspaper publisher, journalist, and activist for Pan Africanism who became well
known in the United States. He founded the Universal
Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA). He encouraged black nationalism and for people of African ancestry to look favorably
upon their ancestral homeland. He wrote a number of
essays published as editorials in the UNIA house organ,
the Negro World newspaper. Some of his lecture material and other writings were compiled and published as
nonction books by his second wife Amy Jacques Garas the Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey Or,
Another prominent author of this period is Booker T.
for the Africans (1924) and More Philosophy and
Washington (18561915), who in many ways repre-


Opinions of Marcus Garvey (1977).

Paul Laurence Dunbar, who often wrote in the rural,
black dialect of the day, was the rst African-American
poet to gain national prominence. His rst book of poetry, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1893. Much of Dunbars work, such as When Malindy Sings (1906), which includes photographs taken by the Hampton Institute Camera Club, and Joggin' Erlong (1906) provide revealing
glimpses into the lives of rural African Americans of the
day. Though Dunbar died young, he was a prolic poet,
essayist, novelist (among them The Uncalled, 1898 and
The Fanatics, 1901) and short story writer.
Other African-American writers also rose to prominence
in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among these
is Charles W. Chesnutt, a well-known short story writer
and essayist. Mary Weston Fordham published Magnolia
Leaves in 1897, a book of poetry on religious, spiritual,
and occasionally feminist themes with an introduction by
Booker T. Washington.
Frances E. W. Harper (18251911) wrote four novels,
several volumes of poetry, and numerous stories, poems,
essays and letters. Born to free parents in Baltimore,
Maryland, Harper received an uncommonly thorough education at her uncle, William Watkins school. In 1853,
publication of Harpers Eliza Harris, which was one of
many responses to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Toms
Cabin, brought her national attention. Harper was hired
by the Maine Anti-Slavery Society and in the rst six
weeks, she managed to travel to twenty cities, giving at
least thirty-one lectures.[42] Her book Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, a collection of poems and essays prefaced
by William Lloyd Garrison, was published in 1854 and
sold more than 10,000 copies within three years. Harper
was often characterized as a noble Christian woman
and one of the most scholarly and well-read women of
her day, but she was also known as a strong advocate
against slavery and the post-Civil War repressive measures against blacks.

Langston Hughes, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1936

featured the work of the periods most talented poets, including Claude McKay, who also published three novels,
Home to Harlem, Banjo and Banana Bottom and a collection of short stories. In 1926, Hughes published a collection of poetry, The Weary Blues, and in 1930 a novel,
Not Without Laughter. Perhaps his most famous poem
is extquotedblThe Negro Speaks of Rivers extquotedbl,
which he wrote as a young teen. His single, most recognized character is Jesse B. Simple, a plainspoken, pragmatic Harlemite whose comedic observations appeared
in Hughess columns for the Chicago Defender and the
New York Post. Simple Speaks His Mind (1950) is perhaps
2.6 Harlem Renaissance
the best-known collection of Simple stories published in
book form. Until his death in 1967, Hughes published
Main article: Harlem Renaissance
nine volumes of poetry, eight books of short stories, two
novels and a number of plays, childrens books and transThe Harlem Renaissance from 1920 to 1940 was a ower- lations.
ing of African-American literature and art. Based in the Another notable writer of the renaissance is novelist Zora
African-American community of Harlem in New York Neale Hurston, author of the classic novel Their Eyes
City, it was part of a larger owering of social thought Were Watching God (1937). Although Hurston wrote 14
and culture. Numerous Black artists, musicians and oth- books that ranged from anthropology to short stories to
ers produced classic works in elds from jazz to theater; novel-length ction, her writings fell into obscurity for
the renaissance is perhaps best known for the literature decades. Her work was rediscovered in the 1970s through
a 1975 article by Alice Walker, In Search of Zora Neale
that came out of it.
Among the most renowned writers of the renaissance is Hurston, published in Ms. magazine. Walker found in
poet Langston Hughes. Hughes rst received attention in Hurston a role model for all female African-American
the 1922 publication The Book of American Negro Po- writers.
etry. Edited by James Weldon Johnson, this anthology While Hurston and Hughes are the two most inuential


Civil Rights Movement era

writers to come out of the Harlem Renaissance, a number of other writers also became well known during this
period. They include Jean Toomer, author of Cane, a
famous collection of stories, poems, and sketches about
rural and urban Black life, and Dorothy West, whose
novel The Living is Easy examined the life of an upperclass Black family. Another popular renaissance writer
is Countee Cullen, who in his poems described everyday black life (such as a trip he made to Baltimore that
was ruined by a racial insult). Cullens books include the
poetry collections Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927), and
The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927). Frank Marshall
Davis's poetry collections Black Mans Verse (1935) and
I am the American Negro (1937), published by Black Cat
Press, earned him critical acclaim. Author Wallace Thurman also made an impact with his novel The Blacker the
Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929), which focused on
intraracial prejudice between lighter-skinned and darkerskinned African Americans.
The Harlem Renaissance marked a turning point for
African-American literature. Prior to this time, books by
African Americans were primarily read by other Black
people. With the renaissance, though, African-American
Richard Wright, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1939
literatureas well as black ne art and performance
artbegan to be absorbed into mainstream American


Civil Rights Movement era

A large migration of African Americans began during

World War I, hitting its high point during World War II.
During this Great Migration, Black people left the racism
and lack of opportunities in the American South and settled in northern cities like Chicago, where they found
work in factories and other sectors of the economy.[43]
This migration produced a new sense of independence
in the Black community and contributed to the vibrant
Black urban culture seen during the Harlem Renaissance.
The migration also empowered the growing American
Civil Rights movement, which made a powerful impression on Black writers during the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Just
as Black activists were pushing to end segregation and
racism and create a new sense of Black nationalism, so
too were Black authors attempting to address these issues
with their writings.

world for me. Wright is best known for his novel Native
Son (1940), which tells the story of Bigger Thomas, a
Black man struggling for acceptance in Chicago. Baldwin was so impressed by the novel that he titled a collection of his own essays Notes of a Native Son, in reference
to Wrights novel. However, their friendship fell apart
due to one of the books essays, Everybodys Protest
Novel, which criticized Native Son for lacking credible characters and psychological complexity. Among
Wrights other books are the autobiographical novel Black
Boy (1945), The Outsider (1953), and White Man, Listen!

The other great novelist of this period is Ralph Ellison,

best known for his novel Invisible Man (1952), which won
the National Book Award in 1953. Even though he did
not complete another novel during his lifetime, Invisible
Man was so inuential that it secured his place in literary
history. After Ellisons death in 1994, a second novel,
Juneteenth (1999), was pieced together from the 2,000plus pages he had written over 40 years. A fuller version
One of the rst writers to do so was James Baldwin, of the manuscript was published as Three Days Before
whose work addressed issues of race and sexuality. Bald- the Shooting (2010). Jones, Edward, The Known World,
win, who is best known for his novel Go Tell It on 2003 Carter Stephen, New England White 2007 Wright
the Mountain, wrote deeply personal stories and essays W.D. Crisis of the Black Intellectual, 2007
while examining what it was like to be both Black and The Civil Rights time period also saw the rise of female
homosexual at a time when neither of these identities Black poets, most notably Gwendolyn Brooks, who bewas accepted by American culture. In all, Baldwin wrote came the rst African American to win the Pulitzer Prize
nearly 20 books, including such classics as Another Coun- when it was awarded for her 1949 book of poetry, Antry and The Fire Next Time.
nie Allen. Along with Brooks, other female poets who
Baldwins idol and friend was author Richard Wright, became well known during the 1950s and '60s are Nikki
whom Baldwin called the greatest Black writer in the Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez.

Theodore Gross) Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in
America (1968), a collection of black writings released
by a major publisher.[45] This anthology, and Emanuels
work as an educator at the City College of New York
(where he is credited with introducing the study of
African-American poetry), heavily inuenced the birth
of the genre.[45] Other inuential African-American anthologies of this time included Black Fire: An Anthology
of Afro-American Writing, edited by LeRoi Jones (now
known as Amiri Baraka) and Larry Neal in 1968; The
Negro Caravan, co-edited by Sterling Brown, Arthur P.
Davis and Ulysses Lee in 1969; and We Speak As Liberators: Young Black Poets - An Anthology, edited by Oorde
Coombs and published in 1970.

Ralph Ellison circa 1961

Toni Morrison, meanwhile, helped promote Black literature and authors when she worked as an editor for
Random House in the 1960s and '70s, where she edited
books by such authors as Toni Cade Bambara and Gayl
Jones. Morrison herself would later emerge as one of
the most important African-American writers of the 20th
century. Her rst novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in
1970. Among her most famous novels is Beloved, which
won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988. This story
describes a slave who found freedom but killed her infant daughter to save her from a life of slavery. Another important novel is Song of Solomon, a tale about
materialism, unrequited love, and brotherhood. Morrison is the rst African American to win the Nobel Prize
in Literature.

During this time, a number of playwrights also came

to national attention, notably Lorraine Hansberry, whose
play A Raisin in the Sun focuses on a poor Black family living in Chicago. The play won the 1959 New York
Drama Critics Circle Award. Another playwright who
gained attention was Amiri Baraka, who wrote controIn the 1970s novelist and poet Alice Walker wrote a faversial o-Broadway plays. In more recent years, Baraka
mous essay that brought Zora Neale Hurston and her clashas become known for his poetry and music criticism.
sic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God back to the atIt is also worth noting that a number of important es- tention of the literary world. In 1982, Walker won both
says and books about human rights were written by the the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her
leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the novel The Color Purple. An epistolary novel (a book writleading examples of these is Martin Luther King, Jr's ten in the form of letters), The Color Purple tells the story
extquotedblLetter from Birmingham Jail extquotedbl.
of Celie, a young woman who is sexually abused by her
stepfather and then is forced to marry a man who physically abuses her. The novel was later made into a lm by
2.8 Recent history
Steven Spielberg.
The 1970s also saw African-American books topping the
bestseller lists. Among the rst to do so was Roots: The
Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley. A ctionalized account of Haleys family historybeginning with
the kidnapping of his ancestor Kunta Kinte in Gambia
through his life as a slave in the United States Roots
won the Pulitzer Prize and became a popular television
As part of the larger Black Arts Movement, which was in- miniseries. Haley also wrote The Autobiography of Malspired by the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, colm X in 1965.
African American literature began to be dened and anOther important writers in recent years include literary
alyzed. A number of scholars and writers are generction writers Gayl Jones, Rasheed Clark, Ishmael Reed,
ally credited with helping to promote and dene AfricanJamaica Kincaid, Randall Kenan, and John Edgar WideAmerican literature as a genre during this time period,
man. African-American poets have also garnered attenincluding ction writers Toni Morrison and Alice Walker
tion. Maya Angelou read a poem at Bill Clinton's inauguand poet James Emanuel.
ration, Rita Dove won a Pulitzer Prize and served as Poet
James Emanuel took a major step toward den- Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995, and
ing African-American literature when he edited (with
Beginning in the 1970s, African-American literature
reached the mainstream as books by Black writers continually achieved best-selling and award-winning status. This was also the time when the work of AfricanAmerican writers began to be accepted by academia as a
legitimate genre of American literature.[44]


Refuting the dominant literary culture

Cyrus Cassells's Soul Make a Path through Shouting was

nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Cassells is a recipient of the William Carlos Williams Award. Natasha
Trethewey won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with
her book Native Guard. Lesser-known poets such as
Thylias Moss also have been praised for their innovative work. Notable black playwrights include Ntozake
Shange, who wrote For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf; Ed Bullins;
Suzan-Lori Parks; and the prolic August Wilson, who
won two Pulitzer Prizes for his plays. Most recently,
Edward P. Jones won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
for The Known World, his novel about a black slaveholder
in the antebellum South.
Young African American novelists include David Anthony Durham, Tayari Jones, Kalisha Buckhanon, Mat
Johnson, ZZ Packer and Colson Whitehead, just to name
a few. African-American literature has also crossed over
to genre ction. A pioneer in this area is Chester Himes,
who in the 1950s and '60s wrote a series of pulp ction detective novels featuring Con Ed Johnson and
Gravedigger Jones, two New York City police detectives. Himes paved the way for the later crime novels
of Walter Mosley and Hugh Holton. African Americans are also represented in the genres of science ction,
fantasy and horror, with Samuel R. Delany, Octavia E.
Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Robert Fleming,
Brandon Massey, Charles R. Saunders, John Ridley, John
M. Faucette, Sheree Thomas and Nalo Hopkinson being
just a few of the well-known authors.

3.1 Refuting the dominant literary culture

Throughout American history, African Americans have
been discriminated against and subject to racist attitudes.
This experience inspired some Black writers, at least during the early years of African-American literature, to
prove they were the equals of European-American authors. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr, has said, it is fair to
describe the subtext of the history of black letters as this
urge to refute the claim that because blacks had no written
traditions they were bearers of an inferior culture.[46]
By refuting the claims of the dominant culture, AfricanAmerican writers were also attempting to subvert the literary and power traditions of the United States. Some
scholars assert that writing has traditionally been seen as
something dened by the dominant culture as a white
male activity.[46] This means that, in American society,
literary acceptance has traditionally been intimately tied
in with the very power dynamics which perpetrated such
evils as racial discrimination. By borrowing from and incorporating the non-written oral traditions and folk life of
the African diaspora, African-American literature broke
the mystique of connection between literary authority
and patriarchal power.[47] In producing their own literature, African Americans were able to establish their
own literary traditions devoid of the white intellectual lter. This view of African-American literature as a tool in
the struggle for Black political and cultural liberation has
been stated for decades, perhaps most famously by W. E.
B. Du Bois.[48]

Finally, African-American literature has gained added attention through the work of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, who repeatedly has leveraged her fame to promote 3.2 Existing both inside and outside Amerliterature through the medium of her Oprahs Book Club.
ican literature
At times, she has brought African-American writers a
far broader audience than they otherwise might have re- According to Joanne Gabbin, a professor, Africanceived.
American literature exists both inside and outside American literature. Somehow African American literature
has been relegated to a dierent level, outside American literature, yet it is an integral part, she says.[49] She
bases her theory in the experience of Black people in
3 Critiques
the United States. Even though African Americans have
long claimed an American identity, during most of United
While African American literature is well accepted in the States history they were not accepted as full citizens and
United States, there are numerous views on its signi- were actively discriminated against. As a result, they were
cance, traditions, and theories. To the genres supporters, part of America while also outside it.
African American literature arose out of the experience
of Blacks in the United States, especially with regards to
historic racism and discrimination, and is an attempt to
refute the dominant cultures literature and power. In addition, supporters see the literature existing both within
and outside American literature and as helping to revitalize the countrys writing. To critics , African-American
literature is part of a Balkanization of American literature. In addition, there are some within the African
American community who do not like how their own literature sometimes showcases Black people.

Similarly, African-American literature is within the

framework of a larger American literature, but it also is
independent. As a result, new styles of storytelling and
unique voices have been created in relative isolation. The
benet of this is that these new styles and voices can leave
their isolation and help revitalize the larger literary world
(McKay, 2004). This artistic pattern has held true with
many aspects of African American culture over the last
century, with jazz and hip hop being just two artistic examples that developed in isolation within the Black community before reaching a larger audience and eventually


revitalizing American culture.

Since African-American literature is already popular with
mainstream audiences, its ability to develop new styles
and voicesor to remain authentic, in the words of
some criticsmay be a thing of the past.[14]


Balkanization of American literature

Some conservative academics and intellectuals argue that

African-American literature exists as a separate topic
only because of the balkanization of literature over the
last few decades, or as an extension of the culture wars
into the eld of literature.[50] According to these critics,
literature is splitting into distinct and separate groupings
because of the rise of identity politics in the United States
and other parts of the world. These critics reject bringing
identity politics into literature because this would mean
that only women could write about women for women,
and only Blacks about Blacks for Blacks.[50]
People opposed to this group-based approach to writing
say that it limits the ability of literature to explore the
overall human condition. Critics also disagree with classifying writers on the basis of their race, as they believe
this is limiting and artists can tackle any subject.


the nightlife in Harlem appealed only to the prurient

demand[s] extquotedbl of white readers and publishers
looking for portrayals of Black licentiousness. Du Bois
said, extquotedbl'Home to Harlem' ... for the most part
nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its lth I feel
distinctly like taking a bath.[52] Others made similar criticism of Wallace Thurman's novel The Blacker the Berry
in 1929. Addressing prejudice between lighter-skinned
and darker-skinned Blacks, the novel infuriated many
African Americans, who did not like the public airing of
their dirty laundry.[53]
Many African-American writers thought their literature should present the full truth about life and people.
Langston Hughes articulated this view in his essay The
Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (1926). He wrote
that Black artists intended to express themselves freely no
matter what the Black public or white public thought.
More recently, some critics accused Alice Walker of
unfairly attacking black men in her novel The Color
Purple (19xx).[54] In his updated 1995 introduction to
his novel Oxherding Tale, Charles Johnson criticized
Walkers novel for its negative portrayal of AfricanAmerican males: I leave it to readers to decide which
book pushes harder at the boundaries of convention, and
inhabits most condently the space where ction and philosophy meet. Walker responded in her essays The Same
River Twice: Honoring the Dicult (19xx).

Proponents counter that the exploration of group and

ethnic dynamics through writing deepens human understanding and previously, entire groups of people were ig- Robert Hayden, the rst African-American Poet Laurenored or neglected by American literature.[51] (Jay, 1997) ate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, critiqued the idea of African American Literature saying
The general consensus view appears to be that Ameri(paraphrasing the comment by the black composer Duke
can literature is not breaking apart because of new genres
Ellington about jazz and music), There is no such thing
like African-American literature. Instead, American litas Black literature. Theres good literature and bad. And
erature is simply reecting the increasing diversity of the
thats all.[55]
United States and showing more signs of diversity than
Kenneth Warrens What Was African American Literabefore in its history (Andrews, 1997; McKay, 2004).
ture? extquotedbl argues that black American writing, as
a literature, began with the institution of Jim Crow legislation and ended with desegregation. In order to sub3.4 African American criticism
stantiate this claim, he cites both the societal pressures to
Some of the criticism of African-American literature create a distinctly black American literature for uplift and
over the years has come from within the community; the lack of a well formulated essential notion of literary
some argue that Black literature sometimes does not por- blackness. For this scholar, the late 19th and early 20th
century de jure racism crystallized the canon of African
tray Black people in a positive light and that it should.
American literature as black writers conscripted literaW. E. B. Du Bois wrote in the NAACP's The Crisis on
ture as a means to counter notions of inferiority. Durthis topic, saying in 1921, We want everything that is
ing this period, whether African American writers acsaid about us to tell of the best and highest and noblest
quiesced in or kicked against the label, they knew what
in us. We insist that our Art and Propaganda be one.
was at stake in accepting or contesting their identicaHe added in 1926, All Art is propaganda and ever must
tion as Negro writers.[56] He writes that [a]bsent white
be, despite the wailing of the purists.[48] Du Bois and
suspicion of, or commitment to imposing, black inferiorthe editors of The Crisis consistently stated that literature
ity, African American literature would not have existed
was a tool in the struggle for African-American political
as a literature[57] Warren bases part of his argument on
the distinction between the mere existence of literary
Du Boiss belief in the propaganda value of art showed texts and the formation of texts into a coherent body of
when he clashed in 1928 with the author Claude McKay literature.[58] For Warren, it is the coherence of respondover his best-selling novel Home to Harlem. Du Bois ing to racist narratives in the struggle for civil rights that
thought the novels frank depictions of sexuality and

establishes the body of African American literature, and
the scholar suggests that continuing to refer to the texts
produced after the civil rights era as such is a symptom
of nostalgia or a belief that the struggle for civil rights has
not yet ended.[58]

[3] Darryl Dickson-Carr, The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction, New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, pp. 10-11, ISBN 0-231-12472-4.
[4] Katherine Driscoll Coon, A Rip in the Tent: Teaching
African American Literature, in Teaching African American Literature, ed. M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, p. 32,
ISBN 041591695X.

In an alternative reading, Karla F.C. Holloway's Legal Fictions (forthcoming from Duke University Press,
2014) suggests a dierent composition for the tradi[5]
tion and argues its contemporary vitality.[59] Her thesis
is that legally cognizable racial identities are sustained
through constitutional or legislative act, and these nurture
the legal ction of African American identity. Le- [6]
gal Fictions argues that the social imagination of race
is expressly constituted in law and is expressively represented through the imaginative composition of literary
ctions. As long as US law species a black body as [7]
extquotedbldiscrete and insular, it confers a cognizable [8]
legal status onto that body. US ctions use that legal identity to construct narrativessfrom neo-slave narratives to
contemporary novels like Walter Mosley's The Man in
My Basement. that take constitutional ctions of race [9]
and their frames (contracts, property, and evidence) to
compose the narratives that cohere the tradition.

See also
Black sermonic tradition
African American
African-American culture
African-American history
American literature
List of African-American writers
Southern Gothic
Callaloo (journal)
Urban ction


[1] Jerry W. Ward, Jr., To Shatter Innocence: Teaching

African American Poetry, in Teaching African American Literature, ed. M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, p. 146,
ISBN 041591695X.
[2] Peterson, Carla (1995). Doers of the Word: AfricanAmerican Women Speakers and Writers in the North
(18301880). New York: Oxford University Press. p.
4. ISBN 0-8135-2514-4.

Valerie Sweeney Prince, Burnin' Down the House: Home

in African American Literature, New York: Columbia
University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-231-13440-1.
Drexler, Michael (2008). Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African-American Literature. Lewisburg:
Bucknell University Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780838757116.
Dickson-Carr,The Columbia Guide, p. 73.
Radhika Mohanram and Gita Rajan, English Postcoloniality: Literatures from Around the World, Connecticut:
Greenwood Press, 1996, p. 135, ISBN 0313288542.
Ward, Jr., To Shatter Innocence, p. 146.
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory
of African American Literary Criticism, New York: Oxford, 1988, page xix, ISBN 0195034635.

[11] Henry Louis Gates Jr. The Blackness of Blackness, Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd Ed, Blackwell publishing p 988.
[12] Henry Louis Gates Jr. The Blackness of Blackness, Literary Theory: An Anthology 2nd Ed, Blackwell publishing, p. 992.
[13] Adams, Catherine; Pleck, Elizabeth (2010). Love of Freedom: Black Women in Colonial and Revolutionary New
England. New York: Oxford University Press. p. Kindle
Location 1289. ISBN 978-0-19-538909-8.
[14] Ellis Cashmore, review of The Norton Anthology of
African-American Literature, Nellie Y. McKay and Henry
Louis Gates, eds., New Statesman, April 25, 1997 (accessed July 6, 2005).
[15] Gates, Henry Louis (1997). The Norton Anthology of
African American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton.
p. 214. ISBN 0393959082.
[16] An address to the Negroes in the state of New-York, by
Jupiter Hammon, servant of John Lloyd, Jun, Esq; of the
manor of Queens Village, Long-Island. 1778.
[17] Victor Sjour, Philip Barnard (translator). The Mulatto.
In Nellie Y. McKay, Henry Louis Gates (eds), The Norton
Anthology of African American Literature Second edition,
Norton, 2004. ISBN 0-393-97778-1
[19] Ferguson, Moira (1998). Nine Black Women: An Anthology of Nineteenth-Century Writers from the United States,
Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean. New York: Routledge. p. 118. ISBN 0415919045.


[20] Ferguson, Moira (1998). Nine Black Women: An Anthology of Nineteenth-century writers from the United States,
Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean. New York: Routledge. p. 119. ISBN 0415919045.
[21] Stern, Juila (September 1995). Excavating Genre
in Our Nig. American Literature. 3 67 (3): 40.
[22] Gates, Henry Louis (2004). In Search of Hannah Crafts:
Critical Essays on The Bondwomans Narrative. New
York: Basic Civitas. pp. 34. ISBN 0465027148.
[23] Gates, Henry Louis (2004). In Search of Hannah Crafts:
Critical Essays on The Bondwomans Narrative. New
York: Basic Civitas. p. xi. ISBN 0465027148.
[24] Gates, Henry Louis (2004). In Search of Hannah Crafts:
Critical Essays on The Bondwomans Narrative. New
York: Basic Civitas. pp. 67. ISBN 0465027148.
[25] Andrews, William (1986). Sisters of the Spirit: Three
Black Womens Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 1. ISBN
[26] Peterson, Carla. Doers of the Word. p. 5.
[27] Peterson, Carla. Doers of the Word. p. 3.
[28] Andrews, William (1986). Sisters of the Spirit: Three
Black Womens Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 2. ISBN
[29] Foster, Frances Smith (1993). Written By Herself: Literary Production by African American Women, 1746-1892.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 84. ISBN
[30] Foster, Frances Smith (1993). Written By herself: Literary production By African American Women, 17461892.
Bloomington: Indiana University press. p. 85. ISBN
[31] Peterson, Carla. Doers of the Word. p. 57.
[32] Peterson, Carla. pp. 6667.
[33] Ferguson, Moira. p. 148.
[34] Peterson, Carla. Doers of the Word. p. 74.
[35] Ferguson, Moira. Nine Black Women. p. 172.


[41] Gates, Henry Louis (1997). The Norton Anthology of

African American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton.
p. 365. ISBN 0393959082.
[42] Gates, Henry Louis (1997). The Norton Anthology of
African American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton.
p. 491. ISBN 0393959082.
[43] David M. Katzman, extquotedblBlack Migration, in The
Readers Companion to American History, Houghton Mifin Co. (accessed July 6, 2005); James Grossman,
extquotedblChicago and the 'Great Migration', Illinois
History Teacher 3, no. 2 (1996), (accessed July 6, 2005).
[44] Ronald
unprecedented public impact of W.W. Norton and
Cos Norton Anthology of African American Literature,
Black Issues in Higher Education, September 18, 1997
(accessed July 6, 2005).
[45] James A. Emanuel: A Register of His Papers in the
Library of Congress, prepared by T. Michael Womack,
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington,
D.C., 2000. Accessed May 6, 2006.
[46] The Other Ghost in Beloved: The Specter of the Scarlet
Letter by Jan Stryz from The New Romanticism: a collection of critical essays by Eberhard Alsen, page 140, ISBN
[47] Quote from Marjorie Pryse in The Other Ghost in
Beloved: The Specter of the Scarlet Letter by Jan Stryz
from The New Romanticism: a collection of critical essays
by Eberhard Alsen, page 140, ISBN 0-8153-3547-4.
[48] Mason, extquotedblAfrican-American Theory and Criticism extquotedbl (accessed July 6, 2005).
[49] extquotedblCoup of the Century extquotedbl, James
Madison University (accessed July 6, 2005).
[50] Richard H. Brodhead, extquotedblOn the Debate Over
Multiculturalism, On Common Ground , no. 7 (Fall
1996), (accessed July 6, 2005).
[51] Theodore O. Mason, Jr., extquotedblAfrican-American
Theory and Criticism, Johns Hopkins Guide Literary Theory & Criticism; American Literature, College of Education, Cal State San Bernardino; Stephanie Y. Mitchem,
extquotedblNo longer nailed to the oor, Cross Currents,
Spring 2003;.

[37] Foster, Frances Smith. Written by Herself. p. 86.

[52] John Lowney, extquotedblHaiti and Black Transnationalism: Remapping the Migrant Geography of Home to
Harlem, African American Review, Fall 2000 (accessed
July 6, 2005).

[38] Gates, Henry Louis (1997). The Norton Anthology of

African American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton.
p. 245. ISBN 0393959082.

[53] Frederick B. Hudson, extquotedblBlack and Gay? A

Painter Explores Historical Roots, The Black World Today, April 25, 2005.

[39] Watson, Carole M. (1985). Her Prologue: The Novels of

Black American Women. Greenwood.

[54] Michael E. Muellero, Biography of Alice Walker, Contemporary Black Biography 1; Jen Crispin, review of The
Color Purple, by Alice Walker. (accessed July 6, 2005)

[36] Foster, Frances Smith. Written by Herself. p. 85.

[40] Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk, Penguin Books,

1996, p. 10, ISBN 014018998X.

[55] Biography of Robert Hayden (accessed August 25, 2005).


[56] Kenneth Warren. What Was African American Literature? Harvard University Press: 2011 p 8.
[57] Kenneth Warren. What Was African American Literature? Harvard University Press: 2011 p 15.
[58] Warren. What Was African American Literature?
[59] Karla F.C. Holloway

Andrews, W., Foster, F., and Harris, T. (Editors).The Oxford Companion to African American
Literature. Oxford, 1997.
Brodhead, R. An Anatomy of Multiculturalism.
Yale Alumni Magazine, April 1994. Excerpted here.
Cashmore, E. extquotedblReview of the Norton Anthology of African-American Literature extquotedbl New Statesman, April 25, 1997.
Dalrymple, T. extquotedblAn Imaginary 'Scandal'
extquotedbl The New Criterion, May 2005.
Davis, M., Graham, M., and Pineault-Burke, S. (Editors). Teaching African American Literature: Theory and Practice. Routledge, 1998.
Gates, H. The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: Americas
First Black Poet and Her Encounters With the Founding Fathers Basic Civitas Books, 2003
Gilyard, K., and Wardi, A. African American Literature. Penguin, 2004.
Greenberg, P. extquotedblI hate that (The rise of
identity journalism) extquotedbl.,
June 15, 2005.
Groden, M., and Krieswirth, M. (Editors).
extquotedblAfrican-American Theory and Criticism extquotedbl from the Johns Hopkins Guide to
Literary Theory and Criticism.
Grossman, J. extquotedblHistorical Research and
Narrative of Chicago and the Great Migration extquotedbl.
Hamilton, K. extquotedblWriters Retreat: Despite
the proliferation of Black authors and titles in todays marketplace, many look to literary journals
to carry on the torch for the written word extquotedbl. Black Issues in Higher Education, November
6, 2003.
Jay, G. American Literature and the Culture Wars.
Cornell University Press, 1997. Excerpted here.
Lowney, J. extquotedblHaiti and Black Transnationalism: Remapping the Migrant Geography of Home
to Harlem extquotedbl African American Review,
Fall, 2000.

McKay, N., and Gates, H. (Editors). The Norton

Anthology of African American Literature, Second
Edition. W. W. Norton & Company, 2004.
Mitchem, S. extquotedblNo Longer Nailed to the
Floor extquotedbl. Cross Currents, spring, 2003.
Nishikawa, K. African American Critical Theory.
The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. 5 vols.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005. 36-41.
Nishikawa, K. Crime and Mystery Fiction. The
Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Ed. Hans Ostrom and J. David Macey, Jr.
5 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005. 36067.
Roach, R. extquotedblPowerful pages: Unprecedented Public Impact of W.W. Norton and Cos
Norton Anthology of African American Literature
extquotedbl. Black Issues in Higher Education,
September 18, 1997.
Scott, D. extquotedblHarlem shadows:
Reevaluating Wallace Thurmans The Blacker the
Berry extquotedbl. MELUS, fall-winter, 2004.
John Callahan, Ph.D., In the African-American
Grain: Call and Response in Twentieth-Century
Black Fiction, University of Illinois Press, reprint
ed., 2001. ISBN 0-252-06982-X

7 Further reading
Dorson, Richard M., editor
--- Negro Folktales in Michigan, Harvard University Press, 1956.
--- Negro Tales from Pine Blu, Arkansas, and
Calvin, Michigan, 1958. ISBN 0-527-246506 ISBN 978-0-527-24650-1
--- American Negro Folktales, 1967.
Piacentino, Ed. Seeds of Rebellion in Plantation
Fiction: Victor Sjours 'The Mulatto' extquotedbl.
Southern Spaces. August 28, 2007.

8 External links
African American Literature Book Club
American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology
A Brief Chronology of African American Literature


African American Women Writers of the 19th Century

Famous Writers Section, Mr.

Africa Poetry

North American Slave Narratives

Black Writers Conference
African American Literatures and Cultures Institute
of The University of Texas at San Antonio
African American Pamphlets From the Rare Book
and Special Collections Division at the Library of



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