African American literature

From Citizendium
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This article is developed but not approved.
Main Article
Related Articles  [?]
Bibliography  [?]
External Links  [?]
Citable Version  [?]
This editable, developed Main Article is subject to a disclaimer.
Some content on this page may previously have appeared on Wikipedia.

African American literature is the body of literature produced in the USA by writers of African descent. The genre traces its origins to the works of such late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano, reached early high points with slave narratives and the Harlem Renaissance, and continues today with authors such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Walter Mosley being ranked among the top writers in the United States. Among the themes and issues explored in African American literature are the role of African Americans within the larger American society, African American culture, racism, slavery, and equality. African American writing has also tended to incorporate within itself oral forms such as spirituals, sermons, gospel music, blues and rap.[1]

As African Americans' place in American society has changed over the centuries, so, too, have the foci of African American literature. Before the American Civil War, African American literature primarily focused on the issue of slavery, as indicated by the subgenre of slave narratives. At the turn of the 20th century, books by authors such as W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington debated whether to confront or appease racist attitudes in the United States. During the American Civil Rights movement, authors like 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 by Alice Walker, and Beloved by Toni Morrison achieving both best-selling and award-winning status.

Characteristics and themes

In broad terms, African American literature can be defined as writings by people of African descent living in the United States of America. However, just as African-American history and life is extremely varied, so too is African American literature.[2] That said, African American literature has generally focused on themes of particular interest to Black people in the United States, such as the role of African Americans within the larger American society and what it means to be an American.[3] As Princeton University professor Albert Raboteau has said that all African-American studies, including African American literature, "speaks to the deeper meaning of the African-American presence in this nation. This presence has always been a test case of the nation's claims to freedom, democracy, equality, the inclusiveness of all."[4] As such, it can be said that African American Literature explores the very issues of freedom and equality which were long denied to Black people in the United States, along with further themes such as African American culture, racism, religion, slavery, a sense of home[5]. and more.

African American literature constitutes a vital branch of the literature of the African diaspora, with African American literature both being influenced by the great African diasporic heritage[6] and in turn influencing African diasporic writings in many countries. In addition, African American literature exists within the larger realm of post-colonial literature, even though scholars draw a distinctive line between the two by stating that "African American literature differs 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 power."[7]

One frequently mentioned characteristic of African American literature is its strong tradition of incorporating oral poetry into itself. There are many examples of oral poetry in African American culture, including spirituals, African American gospel music, blues and rap. This oral poetry also shows up in the African American tradition of Christian sermons, which make use of deliberate repetition, cadence and alliteration. All of these examples of oral poetry have made their way into African American literature (and especially African American poetry).[8]

However, while these characteristics and themes exist on many levels of African American literature, they are not the exclusive definition of the genre and don't exist within all works within the genre. In addition, there is resistance to using Western literary theory to analyze African American literature. As Henry Louis Gates, Jr., one of the most important African American literary scholars, once 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."[9]


Early African American literature

Just as African-American history predates the emergence of the United States of America as an independent country, so too does African American literature have similarly deep roots.

Phillis Wheatley

Among the first prominent African American authors was poet Phillis Wheatley (1753–84), who published her book Poems on Various Subjects in 1773, three years before American independence. Born in Senegal, Africa, Wheatley was captured and sold into slavery at the age of seven. Brought to America, she was owned by a Boston merchant. Even though she initially spoke no English, by the time she was sixteen she had mastered the language. Her poetry was praised by many of the leading figures of the American Revolution, including George Washington, who personally thanked her for a poem she wrote in his honor. Despite this, many white people found it hard to believe that a Black woman could be so intelligent as to write poetry. As a result, Wheatley had to defend herself in court by proving she actually wrote her own poetry. Some critics cite Wheatley's successful defense as the first recognition of African American literature.[10]

Another early African American author was Jupiter Hammon (1711–1806?). Hammon, considered the first published Black writer in America, published his poem "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries" as a broadside in early 1761. In 1778 he wrote an ode to Phillis Wheatley, in which he discussed their shared humanity and common bonds. In 1786, Hammon gave his well-known Address to the Negroes of the State of New York. Hammon wrote the speech at age seventy-six after a lifetime of slavery and it contains his famous quote, "If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves." Hammon's speech also promoted the idea of a gradual emancipation as a way of ending slavery.[11] It is thought that Hammon stated this plan because he knew that slavery was so entrenched in American society that an immediate emancipation of all slaves would be difficult to achieve. Hammon apparently remained a slave until his death. His speech was later reprinted by several groups opposed to slavery.

William Wells Brown (1814–84) and Victor Séjour (1817–74) produced the earliest works of fiction by African American writers. Séjour was born free in New Orleans, Louisiana and moved to France at the age of 19. There he published his short story "Le Mulâtre" ("The Mulatto") in 1837; the story represents the first known fiction by an African American, but written in French and published in a French journal, it had apparently no influence on later American literature. Séjour never returned to African American themes in his subsequent works. Brown, on the other hand, was a prominent abolitionist, lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian. Born into slavery in the Southern United States, Brown escaped to the North, where he worked for abolitionist causes and was a prolific writer. Brown wrote what is considered to be the first novel by an African American, Clotel; or, The President's Daughter (1853). The novel was inspired by the rumor that Thomas Jefferson fathered a daughter with his slave Sally Hemings (a rumor which later DNA testing implied was actually a fact).

However, because the novel was published in England, the book is not considered the first African American novel published in the United States. This honor instead goes to Harriet Wilson, whose novel Our Nig (1859) details the difficult lives of Northern free Blacks.

Slave narratives

For more information, see: slave narrative.

One of the earliest and most widely studied elements of African American literature is the slave narrative.[12] Beginning in the late 18th century, some six thousand former slaves in North America and the Caribbean wrote accounts of their lives, with about 150 of these published as separate books or pamphlets.

Many of the most influential slave narratives were produced in the United States between 1845 and the outbreak of the Civil War, in the midst of a national debate over slavery. Many of these narratives were written in response to pro-slavery accounts of plantation life, such as the so-called Anti-Tom literature of writers like William Gilmore Simms. One of the best-known and most admired slave narratives is A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), the first of three autobiographies by the abolitionist orator Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-95). Douglass later revised and expanded his autobiography, which was republished as My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) by Harriet Jacobs (1813-97) is considered the first slave narrative by an African American woman.

Because apologists for slavery routinely dismissed slave narratives as fabrications by white abolitionists, slave narratives were often prefaced by letters by prominent white authors attesting to the character, honesty and literacy of the author. The result, according to literary critics, was "a black message inside a white envelope." [13]

Post-slavery era

After the end of the American Civil War, African American authors turned their attention to the role of African Americans in the post-slavery United States.

Among the most prominent of these writers is W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963), one of the original founders of the NAACP. At the turn of the century, Du Bois published a highly influential collection of essays titled The Souls of Black Folk. The book's essays on race were groundbreaking and drew from DuBois's personal experiences to describe how African Americans lived in American society. The book contains Du Bois's famous quote: "The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line." Du Bois believed that African Americans should, because of their common interests, work together to battle prejudice and inequity.

Another prominent author of this time period is Booker T. Washington (1856–1915), who in many ways represented opposite views from Du Bois. Washington was an educator and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, a 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 first lift themselves up and prove themselves the equal of whites before asking for an end to racism. While this viewpoint was popular among some Blacks (and many whites) at the time, Washington's political views would later fall out of fashion.

A third writer who gained attention during this period is Marcus Garvey (1887–1940), a publisher, journalist, and crusader for Black nationalism. He is best known as a champion of Black nationalism and the "back-to-Africa" movement, which encouraged people of African ancestry to return to their ancestral homeland. He wrote a number of essays and nonfiction books.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, who often wrote in the rural, black dialect of the day, was the first African American poet to gain national prominence. His first book of poetry, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1893. Much of Dunbar's 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 prolific poet, essayist, novelist (among them The Uncalled, 1898 and TheFanatics, 1901) and short story writer.

Even though Du Bois, Washington, and Garvey were the leading African American intellectuals and authors of their time, other African American writers also rose to prominence. Among these is the novelist Charles W. Chesnutt, best known for his short story collections The Conjure Woman, and Other Conjure Tales (1899) and The Wife of His Youth, and Other Stories of the Color Line (1899).

Harlem Renaissance

For more information, see: Harlem Renaissance.

The Harlem Renaissance from 1920 to 1940 brought new attention to African American literature. While the Harlem Renaissance, based in the African American community in Harlem in New York City, existed as a larger flowering of social thought and culture—with numerous Black artists, musicians, and others producing classic works in fields from jazz to theater—the renaissance is perhaps best known for the literature that came out of it.

Among the most famous writers of the renaissance is poet Langston Hughes. Hughes first received attention in the 1922 poetry collection, The Book of American Negro Poetry. This book, edited by James Weldon Johnson, featured the work of the period's most talented poets (including, among others, 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, Hughes' most famous poem is "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," 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 Hughes's columns for the Chicago Defender and the New York Post. Simple Speaks His Mind (1950) is, perhaps, the best-known collection of Simple stories published in book form. Until his death in 1967, Hughes published nine volumes of poetry, eight books of short stories, two novels, and a number of plays, children's books, and translations.

Another famous writer of the renaissance is novelist Zora Neale Hurston, author of the classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). Altogether, Hurston wrote 14 books which ranged from anthropology to short stories to novel-length fiction. Because of Hurston's gender and the fact that her work was not seen as socially or politically relevant, her writings fell into obscurity for decades. Hurston's work was rediscovered in the 1970s in a famous essay by Alice Walker, who found in Hurston a role model for all female African American writers.

While Hurston and Hughes are the two most influential writers to come out of the Harlem Renaissance, a number of other writers also became well known during this period. They include Jean Toomer, who wrote Cane, a famous collection of stories, poems, and sketches about rural and urban Black life, and Dorothy West, author of the novel The Living is Easy, which examined the life of an upper-class Black family. Another popular renaissance writer is Countee Cullen, who described everyday black life in his poems (such as a trip he made to Baltimore, which was ruined by a racial insult). Cullen's 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 Man's 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 darker-skinned Blacks, as well as with Infants of the Spring, which tackled the complex conjunctions of race, class, and sexuality.

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 literature—as well as black fine art and performance art—began to be absorbed into mainstream American culture.

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.[14]

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.

One of the first writers to do so was James Baldwin, whose work addressed issues of race and sexuality. Baldwin, who is best known for his novel Go Tell it on the Mountain, wrote deeply personal stories and essays while examining what it was like to be both Black and homosexual at a time when neither of these identities was accepted by American culture. In all, Baldwin wrote nearly 20 books, including such classics as Another Country and The Fire Next Time.

Baldwin's idol and friend was author Richard Wright, whom Baldwin called "the greatest Black writer in the 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 Wright's novel. However, their friendship fell apart due to one of the book's essays, "Everybody's Protest Novel," which criticized Native Son for its lack of credible, psychologically complex characters. Among Wright's other books are the semiautobiographical novel Black Boy (1945), The Outsider (1953), and White Man, Listen! (1957).

The other great novelist of this period is Ralph Ellison, best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953. Even though Ellison did not complete another novel during his lifetime, Invisible Man was so influential that it secured his place in literary history. After Ellison's death, a second novel, Juneteenth, was pieced together from the 2,000-plus pages he had written over 40 years.

The Civil Rights time period also saw the rise of female Black poets, most notably Gwendolyn Brooks, who became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize when it was awarded for her 1949 book of poetry, Annie Allen. Along with Brooks, other female poets who became well known during the 1950s and '60s are Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez.

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 controversial off-Broadway plays. In more recent years, Baraka has become known for his poetry and music criticism.

It is also worth noting that a number of important essays and books about human rights were written by the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. One of the leading examples of these is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail".

Recent history

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 African American writers began to be accepted by academia as a legitimate genre of American literature.[15]

As part of the larger Black Arts Movement, which was inspired by the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, African American literature began to be defined and analyzed. A number of scholars and writers are generally credited with helping to promote and define African American literature as a genre during this time period, including fiction writers Toni Morrison and Alice Walker and poet James Emanuel.

James Emanuel took a major step toward defining African American literature when he edited (with Theodore Gross) Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America, the first collection of black writings released by a major publisher.[16] This anthology, and Emanuel's work as an educator at the City College of New York (where he is credited with introducing the study of African-American poetry), heavily influenced the birth of the genre.[17] Other influential 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 and The Negro Caravan, co-edited by Sterling Brown, Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses Lee in 1969.

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 first 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 and brotherhood. Morrison is the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

In the 1970s novelist and poet Alice Walker wrote a famous essay that brought Zora Neale Hurston and her classic novel Their Eyes Were Watching God back to the attention of the literary world. In 1982, Walker won both the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her novel The Color Purple. An epistolary novel (a book written in the form of letters), The Color Purple tells the story 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 film by Steven Spielberg.

The 1970s also saw African American books topping the bestseller lists. Among the first books to do so was Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley. The book, a fictionalized account of Haley's family history—beginning with the kidnapping of Haley's ancestor Kunta Kinte in Gambia through his life as a slave in the United States—won the Pulitzer Prize and became a popular television miniseries. Haley also wrote The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 1965, considered by many to be to the "most significant black autobiography of our time."[18]

Other important writers in recent years include literary fiction writers Gayl Jones, Ishmael Reed, Jamaica Kincaid, Randall Kenan, and John Edgar Wideman. African American poets have also garnered attention. Maya Angelou read a poem at Bill Clinton's inauguration, Rita Dove won a Pulitzer Prize and served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995, and 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. Lesser-known poets like Thylias Moss, and Natasha Trethewey 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 prolific 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.

African American literature has also crossed over to genre fiction. A pioneer in this area is Chester Himes, who in the 1950s and '60s wrote a series of pulp fiction detective novels featuring "Coffin" 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 fiction, 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.

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 literature through the medium of her Oprah's Book Club. At times, she has brought African American writers a far broader audience than they otherwise might have received.


While African American literature is well accepted in the United States, there are numerous views on its significance, traditions, and theories. For many critics, African American literature is seen as having very specific roots in the experience of Blacks in the United States, especially with regards to historic racism and discrimination, and is an attempt to refute the dominant culture's literature and power. In addition, supporters see the literature existing both within and outside American literature and as helping to revitalize the country's writing.

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 white 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."[19]

However, by refuting the claims of the dominant culture, African American writers weren't simply "proving their worth"—they were also attempting to subvert the literary and power traditions of the United States. Scholars expressing this view assert that writing has traditionally been seen as "something defined by the dominant culture as a white male activity."[20] 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 thereby broke "the mystique of connection between literary authority and patriarchal power."[21] 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 DuBois[22]

Existing both inside and outside American literature

According to James Madison University English professor Joanne Gabbin, African American literature exists both inside and outside American literature. "Somehow African American literature has been relegated to a different level, outside American literature, yet it is an integral part," she says.[23]

This view of African American literature is grounded in the experience of Black people in the United States. Even though African Americans have long claimed an American identity, during most of United States history they were not accepted as full citizens and were actively discriminated against. As a result, they were part of America while also outside it.

The same can be said for African American literature. While it exists fully within the framework of a larger American literature, it also exists as its own entity. As a result, new styles of storytelling and unique voices are created in isolation. The benefit 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.

Whether African American literature will keep to this pattern in the coming years remains to be seen. Since the genre is already popular with mainstream audiences, it is possible that its ability to develop new styles and voices—or to remain "authentic," in the words of some critics—may be a thing of the past.[24]

African American criticism

Some of the criticism of African American literature over the years has come, surprisingly enough, from within the African American community. This results from complaints that Black literature sometimes does not portray Black people in a positive light.

This clash of aesthetics and racial politics has its beginnings in comments made by W.E.B DuBois in the NAACP publication The Crisis. For example, in 1921 he wrote, "We want everything that is said about us to tell of the best and highest and noblest in us. We insist that our Art and Propaganda be one." He added to this in 1926 by saying, "All Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists."[25] DuBois and the editors of The Crisis consistently stated that literature was a tool in the struggle for African American political liberation.

DuBois's belief in the propaganda value of art showed most clearly when he clashed in 1928 with African American author Claude McKay over McKay's best-selling novel Home to Harlem. To DuBois, the novel's frank depictions of sexuality and the nightlife in Harlem only appealed to the "prurient demand[s]" of white readers and publishers looking for portrayals of Black "licentiousness." DuBois also said, "Home to Harlem ... for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath."[26] This criticism was repeated by others in the Black community when author Wallace Thurman published his novel The Blacker the Berry in 1929. This novel, which focused on intraracial prejudice between lighter-skinned and darker-skinned Blacks, infuriated many African Americans, who did not like such a public airing of their culture's "dirty laundry."[27]

Naturally, many African American writers did not agree with the viewpoint that all Black literature should be propaganda, and instead stated that literature should present the truth about life and people. Langston Hughes articulated this view in his essay "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain" (1926), when he said that Black artists intended to express themselves freely no matter what the Black public or white public thought.

A more recent occurrence of this Black-on-Black criticism arose in charges by some critics that Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple unfairly attacked Black men.[28] Walker later refuted these charges in her book The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult.

See also


  1. "To Shatter Innocence: Teaching African American Poetry" by Jerry W. Ward, Jr., from Teaching African American Literature by M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, page 146.
  2. The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction by Darryl Dickson-Carr, Columbia University Press, 2005, pages 10 to 11.
  3. "A Rip in the Tent: Teaching African American Literature" by Katherine Driscoll Coon, from Teaching African American Literature by M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, page 32.
  4. "A Rip in the Tent: Teaching African American Literature" by Katherine Driscoll Coon, from Teaching African American Literature by M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, page 32.
  5. Burnin' Down the House: Home in African American Literature by Valerie Sweeney Prince, Columbia University Press, 2005.
  6. The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction (The Columbia Guides to Literature Since 1945) by Darryl Dickson-Carr, Columbia University Press, 2005, page 73.
  7. English Postcoloniality: Literatures from Around the World by Radhika Mohanram and Gita Rajan, Greenwood Press, 1996, page 135.
  8. "To Shatter Innocence: Teaching African American Poetry" by Jerry W. Ward, Jr., from Teaching African American Literature by M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, page 146.
  9. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African American Literary Criticism by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Oxford, 1988, page xix.
  10. 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).
  11. An address to the Negroes in the state of New-York, by Jupiter Hammon, servant of John Lloyd, Jun, Esq; of the manor of Queen's Village, Long-Island. 1778.
  12. "Narrating Slavery" by William L. Andrews, from Teaching African American Literature by M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, page 12.
  13. Nellie Y. McKay and Henry Louis Gates, eds., The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature page 133.
  14. David M. Katzman, "Black Migration," in The Reader's Companion to American History, Houghton Mifflin Co. (accessed July 6, 2005); James Grossman, "Chicago and the 'Great Migration'," Illinois History Teacher 3, no. 2 (1996), (accessed July 6, 2005).
  15. Ronald Roach, "Powerful pages—unprecedented public impact of W.W. Norton and Co's Norton Anthology of African American Literature," Black Issues in Higher Education, September 18, 1997 (accessed July 6, 2005).
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. "Narrating Slavery" by William L. Andrews, from Teaching African American Literature by M. Graham, Routledge, 1998, page 13.
  19. "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.
  20. "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.
  21. 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.
  22. Mason, "African-American Theory and Criticism" (accessed July 6, 2005).
  23. "Coup of the Century", James Madison University (accessed July 6, 2005).
  24. 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).
  25. Mason, "African-American Theory and Criticism" (accessed July 6, 2005).
  26. John Lowney, "Haiti and Black Transnationalism: Remapping the Migrant Geography of Home to Harlem," African American Review, Fall 2000 (accessed July 6, 2005).
  27. Frederick B. Hudson, "Black and Gay? A Painter Explores Historical Roots," The Black World Today, April 25, 2005; Daniel M. Scott, "Harlem shadows: re-evaluating Wallace Thurman's The Blacker the Berry," MELUS, Fall–Winter 2004 (accessed July 6, 2005).
  28. 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).