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African American Literature


African American Literature Post-slavery Era Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) autobiographer, essayist, educator James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) poet, ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: African American Literature

African American Literature
  • History and Current Trends

African American Literature
  • The first writings by blacks in America was
    autobiographical and became known as the Slave
  • Three themes developed in early African American
    writings around the issue of slavery
    accommodation, protest, and escape

African American Literature
  • Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa)
  • (c. 1745-c. 1797) Eqiano was the first black in
    America to write an autobiography. In The
    Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah
    Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789)
    Equiano gives an account of his native land (he
    was an Ibo from Niger) and the horrors of his
    captivity and enslavement in the West Indies.

African American Literature
  • Jupiter Hammon (c. 1720-c. 1800) Poet Jupiter
    Hammon, a slave on Long Island, New York, is
    remembered for his religious poems as well as for
    An Address to the Negroes of the State of New
    York (1787), in which he advocated freeing
    children of slaves instead of condemning them to
    hereditary slavery. His poem "An Evening Thought"
    was the first poem published by a black male in

African American Literature
  • Lucy Terry (1730-1821)
  • Thought to be the author of the oldest piece of
    African-American literature, Bars Fight a poem
    written in 1746, about an Indian raid on settlers
    in Massachusetts. It was not published until

African American Literature
  • Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897)
  • Her slave narrative, Incidents in the Life of a
    Slave Girl (1861) is the most comprehensive
    biography of an African American woman prior to
    the Civil War. In it she recounts her life in
    slavery in the context of family relationships
    reshaping the slave narrative genre to include
    womens experiences.

African American Literature
  • Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
  • The first African-American and the second woman
    to publish a book in the colonies, she is one of
    the best known early black poets her work was
    praised by leaders of the American Revolution,
    including George Washington. She is one of the
    first writers to use an epistolary style (in the
    form of letters).

African American Literature
  • Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
  • Orator, journalist, abolitionist, statesman,
    autobiographer and author of Narrative of the
    Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,
    Written by Himself (1845), the most influential
    African American text of his era. His writing and
    life created a model of self-hood of such moral
    and political authority, he was later viewed as a
    cultural hero.

African American Literature Post-slavery Era
  • W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963)
  • One of the founders of the NAACP, DuBois
    published the highly influential The Souls of
    Black Folk (1903) which created a black
    intellectual and artistic consciousness. He was
    an essayist, novelist, academic and the
    preeminent African American scholar-intellectual
    of his time.

African American Literature Post-slavery Era
  • Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) autobiographer,
    essayist, educator
  • James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) poet, essayist,
    editor, educator
  • Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) poet

African American Literature The Harlem Renaissance
  • The artistic and socio-cultural awakening of
    African Americans in the 1920s and 1930s
  • It was centered around the vibrant African
    American community in Harlem, New York, but had
    far-reaching influence in art, music, literature
    and social thought.
  • The interplay of art and race, and the aesthetic
    criteria for evaluating black writing are some of
    the intellectual legacies of the Harlem

African American Literature The Harlem Renaissance
  • Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
  • Poet, playwright, essayist, autobiographer, and
    childrens book author, Hughes came to attention
    in 1922 in the anthology The Book of American
    Negro Poetry. His most famous poem, The Negro
    Speaks of Rivers was written in his teens.

African American Literature The Harlem Renaissance
  • Zora Neal Hurston (1891-1960)
  • Novelist, anthropologist, folklorist, Hurston
    left New York to return to hometown in Florida in
    1927. She began collecting folktales, work songs,
    spirituals and sermons to document the black
    experience. In 1935 she published Mules and Men,
    the first volume of black American folklore. Her
    finest novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
    portrays the life and journey of a strong female
    character set in the rural South.

African American Literature The Harlem Renaissance
  • Alain Locke (1886-1954) essayist, editor
  • Claude McKay (1889-1948) poet
  • Jean Toomer (1894-1967) poet
  • Anne Spencer (1882-1975) poet

African American Literature Realism, Modernism,
  • The 1940s -1960s was an era of social change for
    African Americans. Influences included the Second
    World War, the Second Great Migration, world-wide
    social movements such as communism and Marxism,
    and early civil rights legislation which opened
    up schools and jobs for many African Americans.
  • Urban realism urban sensibility defines much of
    the literature of this era.

African American Literature Realism, Modernism,
  • Richard Wright (1908-1960) novelist,
    autobiographer, political commentator. His
    influential and critically acclaimed novel Native
    Son (1940) tells the story of a black man
    struggling for acceptance in Chicago. It garnered
    him financial success, international fame and his
    outspoken writing style influenced a generation
    of black writers.

African American Literature Realism, Modernism,
  • Ralph Ellison (1914-1994) novelist, essayist,
    scholar, artist, Ellisons important novel
    Invisible Man (1952) is the story of a nameless
    black man who learns to assert himself. The
    Invisible Man is part of the cannon of 20th
    Century American literature, though Ellisons
    only major published work.

African American Literature Realism, Modernism,
  • Margaret Walker (1915-1998) poet, novelist,
    educator (For My People Jubilee)
  • Gwendolyn Brooks (1917- 2000) poet, novelist,
    childrens writer. Her second book of poetry,
    Annie Allen won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950.
  • James Baldwin (1924-1987) novelist, essayist,
    playwright, filmmaker, lecturer. The story of his
    painful childhood is the subject of his first
    novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain
  • Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965) her award-winning
    play, A Raison in the Sun is a classic of the
    American theater.

African American Literature The Black Arts
  • Social and political forces in the black
    community in the 1960s and 1970s sought to change
    the way African Americans were defined and
    treated. The Black Arts Movement sought to change
    how blacks were represented and portrayed in
    literature and the arts.
  • The Black Arts Movement was anchored in political
    change and the concept that the artist is a part
    of his or her community and their work should
    speak to the needs and aspirations of that

African American Literature The Black Arts
  • Malcolm X (1925-1965) orator and autobiographer.
    His Autobiography, published after his death, is
    a major African American literary work of the
    20th Century. It was co-written with author Alex
  • Amiri Baraka (1934- ) poet, playwright,
    activist and lecturer Baraka influenced later
    poets to write from the contemporary African
    American experience.
  • Sonia Sanchez (1934- ), poet, essayist,
    playwright and educator, her writing reflects her
    personal growth to her commitment to make a more
    just world
  • Nikki Giovanni (1943- ) poet, essayist,
    lecturer this prolific poet, sometimes referred
    to as the peoples poet for her down-to-earth
    style has written much about female identity and

African American Literature The 1970s to the
  • African American literature began to enter the
    mainstream of publishing and be read by black and
    white audiences.
  • African American literature began to be defined
    and analyzed.
  • Black women began to achieve success as
    novelists, poets, writers and artists.

African American Literature The 1970s to the
  • Toni Morrison (1931- ) editor, novelist,
    academic, Morrison wrote richly woven stories
    often with strong female characters. The Bluest
    Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977),
    Tar Baby (1981) are some of her great novels.
    Beloved (1988) won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction
    in 1988. She is the first African American women
    to win the Nobel Prize for Literature ( ).

African American Literature The 1970s to the
  • Alice Walker (1944- ) novelist and poet,
    Walkers best known work, The Color Purple (1982)
    won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982. Its the story of
    two sisters who through separation and trials
    continue to support and strengthen each other.
  • Maya Angelou (1928- ) poet, playwright,
    performer and autobiographer. I Know Why the
    Caged Bird Sings (1970) her serial autobiography
    is in the pantheon of modern American literature.

African American Literature The 1970s to the
  • Alex Haley (1921-1992) journalist and novelist
    whos Roots (1976) about his family history
    traced back to West Africa became a television
    event in 1977 and sparked a popular interest and
    pride in African American history and ancestry.
    He also co-wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

African American Literature The 1970s to the
  • Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995) novelist, essayist,
    filmmaker, her short story collections, Gorilla,
    My Love (1972) and her novel, The Salt Eaters
    (1980) demonstrate her commitment to social
  • Ishmael Reed (1938- ) essayist, poet, novelist,
    and publisher, Reeds cultural activism has made
    his published work hard to define. Mumbo Jumbo
    (1972) is considered his masterpiece.

African American Literature The 1970s to the
  • August Wilson (1945-2006) playwright and poet
    best known for his cycle of 10 plays about black
    life in America in the 20th Century. He won the
    Pulitzer Prize for drama for Fences (1987) and
  • Rita Dove (1952- ) poet, novelist, educator,
    Dove won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1987
    for Thomas and Beulah (1986). She was Poet
    Laureate of the United States from 1992-1994.

African American Literature The Contemporary Scene
  • African American writers have entered the
    mainstream of American readership and publish in
    many genres romance, mystery, science fiction
    and literary fiction.
  • While issues of identity and race are still
    prominent, the range of human issues are also
    topics of contemporary African American

African American Literature The Contemporary Scene
  • Edward P. Jones (1951 ) won the Pulitzer
    Prize in 2004 for The Known World (2004) about a
    black slaveholder in the antebellum South.
  • Stephen L. Carter (1954- ), essayist, legal
    scholar, novelist. The Emperor of Ocean Park and
    New England White look at the black middle class.
  • Walter Mosley (1952- ), popular novelist known
    for crime fiction such as Devil in a Blue Dress
  • Terry McMillan (1951- ) professor, author,
    editor McMillans work, such as Waiting to Exhale
    (1992) and How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1995)
    often center around contemporary black family
    life and loves.

African American Literature The Contemporary Scene
  • Edwidge Danticat (1969- ) author, educator.
    Her Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) was brought to
    national attention as an Oprah book. Brother,
    Im Dying (2007) won the National Book Critics
    Circle Award in 2008.
  • ZZ Packer (1973- ) lecturer, short story
    writer. Her short story collection Drinking
    Coffee Elsewhere (2003) received wide acclaim.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977- ) Nigerian-born
    writer whos novel about the Biafran war, Half a
    Yellow Sun (2006) has placed her firmly on the
    American and international literary scene.

Here are some great web sites for further
research http//www.africanamericanhistorymonth.g
The American Memory Project Library of Congress
Slave Narrative Projects from the Library of
Congress http//
North American Slave Narratives from the
Documenting the American South Project at the
University of North Carolina http//docsouth.unc.
Digital Library on American Slavery, U North
Carolina at Greensboro http//
Ex Slave Narratives (Library of Congress
Digitizes Slave Narratives) http//
Faces and Voices (Library of Congress)
Other resources from the Library of Congress
American Slave Narratives from the University of
Virginias Crossroads Project http//xroads.virgi
Slave Narratives with links to Full Text!
The Slave Narrative Project from Washington State
University http//
American Treasures from the Library of Congress
African American Texts at University of Virginia
E-Text Project http//
Can also look for full text of many books through
this site http//
More information on American Authors may be found
at http//
And, this site on American Literature
And, finally full text literatures collections,
courtesy of the Rutgers University
Libraries http//