African American History Literature: How can we even begin to present a brief description of African American history literature, given the long history of the genre, which has been riddled with struggle and violence? It was in the 18th century that the first recent publications of African American literature appeared, at a time the united States was still in the process of being established and when newly recognised citizens, with clearly defined freedoms and rights, were still able to legally own slaves. 

As a result of the conditions of slavery, a particular type of writing developed, which we now refer to as slave tales. By the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Jim Crow legislation had resulted in widespread discrimination and violence in the South, despite the fact that authors continued to produce some of the most significant works of fiction in our collective history throughout this period.

African American History Literature: Slave Narratives In The Eighteenth And Nineteenth Centuries By Frederick Douglas

african american history literature

African american history literature: As the 1700s came to a close, many readers on both sides of the Ocean Boston to London—had read one of the earliest “slave narratives,” better known as “The African” or “Olaudah Equiano” (1789). In contrast to many other slave narratives that followed, this memoir had little impact on the American abolitionist movement. This book sparked anti-slavery sentiments in Britain, under which Olaudah Equiano spent the majority of his time as a free person. While slavery continued in the newly formed United States, he died in 1797, and there were no telltale signs of mitigation efforts in sight.

As the abolitionist movement (which sought to abolish slavery in America) gathered momentum, a number of slave narratives emerged that served as vital evidence for political proponents. For example, Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), sold thousands of copies almost soon after its publication. Historians believe that the book may have sold roughly 30,000 copies in the years leading up to the Civil War, according to some estimates.

American readers had already been introduced to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, another famous slave narrative, by the time the Civil War broke out (1861). Harriet Jacobs, the author, was required to publish under a pseudonym in order to write about gender-based violence she faced while a slave in the United States. The text was first published in serial form in a New York newspaper in the early 1900s.

Early Twentieth Century: Souls Of Black Folk Dubois P dearly Twentieth Century: Souls Of Black Folk Dubois P

African american history literature: Following the Civil War’s conclusion, Reconstruction provided a temporary reprieve from the brutality of racism that had plagued the years leading up to and during the Civil War’s conclusion. However, with the emergence of Jim Crow legislation in the American South, dreams for a more egalitarian future were rapidly dashed. Both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois wrote important essays on the future of Black writers in the United States, offering differing theoretical perspectives on the future of Black writers in the United States. These essays dealt with social mobility, access to employment, and higher education. In the same year that Washington’s Up From Slavery was published, DuBois’s Souls of Black Folk was published, and both books have become classic in the study of African American intellectuals, particularly in the literary histories of the period.

During the 1910s and 1920s, African-American writers gained prominence in the genres of fiction and poetry, respectively. Following his emigration from Jamaica, Claude McKay immediately established himself as a leading figure in contemporary poetry. Some of his most well-known poems engage with early issues of civil rights & racial prejudice in the United States. The publication of “If We Must Die” by McKay in 1917, for example, helped to open the country’s eyes and ears to a new kind of discourse that confronted the continued brutality in Jim Crow America: “If We Must Die.”

If we must die, let us not perish like hogs, hunted and confined in an unglamorous location,/ while the wild and hungry dogs howl about us, making fun of our unfortunate lot. If we must die—oh, let us die with honour, so that our earlier blood will not be spilt in vain.

McKay is regarded as a pivotal character in the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that originated in the Harlem area of New York City and spread throughout the world. Other noteworthy personalities that emerged from this movement that began in the 1920s include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jean Toomer. We do not have the time or space to discuss all of the magnificent works that resulted from this movement that began in the 1920s.

While some of these writers’ works are set in Harlem, many of their works transport their readers to the extreme reaches of the Deep South in order to trace the paths of institutionalised racism in the United States. Look for Zora Neale Hurston’s famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), or Jean Toomer’s Cane (1923), a hybrid work of fiction, poetry, and language fragmentation that combines elements of narrative, poetry, and language fragmentation.

The Civil Rights Movement And The (Post)Modern Condition: African American History Literature

In the mid-twentieth century, any good literary researcher could argue that the beginnings of what would become known as the Civil Rights Movement were heard in the fiction of the time period. Native Son, written by Richard Wright, who was born in Mississippi but grew up in Chicago, was released just before World War II broke out. Wright was born in Mississippi but grew up in Chicago (1940). The novel dealt with the consequences of racial prejudice and segregation, implying that legal violations of individual rights could ultimately result in murder. Bigger Thomas is a Black chauffeur in Chicago who is accused of murdering the daughter of his boss. The novel is set in Chicago. However, the circumstances are more convoluted than a simple narrative outline, and the book concludes by suggesting that the country as a whole could be to blame for such illegal activity.

By the early 1950s, Ralph Ellison had released Invisible Man, a novel about an invisible man (1952). In this work, the narrator, who is African American, travels from political and social upheavals in the American South to Harlem and back again. There, he discovers that racism is not isolated to a certain geographical area, but rather permeates every aspect of American culture.

Toni Morrison Sula-1

Significant female voices have emerged forcefully on the literary stage in recent decades, such as those of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, and have become well-known. Walker’s early 1980s epistolary novel The Color Purple (1982), set in 1930s Georgia, showed the existence of separated people in that time period. The novel was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for literature, and it was eventually adapted into a film that’s been nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.

african american history literature

To this end, Toni Morrison produced Beloved (1987), a novel that transports contemporary readers back to the trauma of slavery during the American Civil War. Toni Morrison is a novelist who lives in the United States. Morrison, like Walker, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for his work. Some of Morrison’s other significant novels include The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), and Song of Solomon (1979). (1977). In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The history of African American history literature is extensive and diverse, as is the literature itself. To learn more about slave tales and their role in abolition, or to learn more about the Harlem Renaissance and its effect on twentieth-century literary genres, you should read the works of these writers over the course of a few decades, if possible. Apart from the works we’ve already mentioned, there are hundreds of additional books, poetry, and plays that are simply waiting for you to find them for yourself.