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African American Literature
In Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature
Each period within the history of African American literature contains its own agenda. In each period, however, most African American authors have sought to provide at least a glimpse into the diverse experiences of African Americans.
American Literature: Topic Page
Literature in English produced in what is now the United States of America.
Biography: Topic Page
Reconstruction, in print or on film, of the lives of real men and women. Together with autobiography—an individual's interpretation of his own life—it shares a venerable tradition, meeting the demands of different audiences through the ages.
Harlem Renaissance: Topic Page
Term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City.
Metaphor: Topic Page
Figure of speech using an analogy or close comparison between two things that are not normally treated as if they had anything in common.
Nobel Prize: Topic Page
Award given for outstanding achievement in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, peace, or literature.
Poetry: Topic Page
Imaginative literary form, particularly suitable for describing emotions and thoughts.
Symbolism (Art movement): Topic Page
In the arts, the use of symbols to concentrate or intensify meaning, making the work more subjective than objective. In the visual arts, symbols have been used in works throughout the ages to transmit a message or idea, for example, the religious symbolism of ancient Egyptian art, Gothic art, and Renaissance art.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Topic Page
Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is her first and most celebrated autobiographical narrative, and its publication in 1970 amounted to an urgent demand for black nationalists and white feminists alike to recognize the singular overcoming of adversity that marks the experiential “lifework” of black womanhood.
Roots: The Saga of an American Family
From Encyclopedia of African American Society
A book, as well as a television miniseries based on it, that changed African Americans' views of their enslavement from one of shame to one of inspiration and pride.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
From Encyclopedia of Black Studies
The Autobiography of Malcolm X tells the life of Malcolm Little in a dramatic fashion that resonates with many members of the African American community. His life was lived with intensity and purpose, and in this book he describes the path that he took in a way that makes his story accessible to all.
From Encyclopedia of Black Studies
Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel Invisible Man deals with the inability of the people around the protagonist to see him as a black man, thus failing to respect himself and his humanity.
In The Literature of Propaganda
Published in 1953, Richard Wright's second novel, The Outsider, explores the tensions surrounding racial liberalism at the height of McCarthyism and at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
Maya Angelou (1928-2014): Topic Page
U.S. Black novelist, poet, and dramatist. Her works include the autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) and its sequels, the collection of poetry I Shall Not be Moved (1990), and Phenomenal Woman (1995).
James Baldwin (1924-1987): Topic Page
Writer, born in Harlem, New York, USA. The son of a preacher, as a teenager he preached in a Harlem Pentecostal church.
Ralph Ellison (1914-1994): Topic Page
US novelist. His Invisible Man (1952) portrays with humour and energy the plight of a black man whom post-war US society cannot acknowledge.
Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797): Topic Page
Although Equiano wasn’t the first African-born former slave to tell his life experiences of enslavement and emancipation, he was the first to write his life story himself, without help or direction from white ghostwriters, amanuenses, or editors.
Alex Haley (1921-1992): Topic Page
American writer best known for Roots (1976), a fictionalized chronicle tracing his family history back to its African origins.
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965): Topic Page
Lorraine Hansberry’s writing was profoundly influenced by her family elders. Her uncle Leo Hansberry was a scholar of African history at Howard University, so Lorraine learned from an early age to link the experiences and challenges of African Americans with those of Africans struggling for liberation in their native land.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967): Topic Page
American writer. Through his poetry, prose, and drama he made important contributions to the Harlem Renaissance. His best-known works include Weary Blues (1926) and The Ways of White Folks (1934).
Jamaica Kincaid (1949- ): Topic Page
Born and raised in the West Indies British colony of Antigua, young Elaine—a prolific reader—was taught that all the greatest literature had been written in Britain prior to 1900. Although she had won scholarships to colonial schools in Antigua, at age 16 Elaine fled to New York City to be an au pair, earning her room and board by doing domestic work for a white family.
Toni Morrison (1931- ): Topic Page
American writer who won the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature. Her novels, such as Sula (1973) and Beloved (1987), examine the experiences of African Americans.
Alice Walker (1944- ): Topic Page
American writer whose works include the novels Meridian (1976) and The Color Purple (1982), for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.
Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784): Topic Page
One of the earliest known African-American writers and the first to publish a book of poetry, former slave Phillis Wheatley has nevertheless been both revered and ignored by the African-American community.
Richard Wright (1908-1960): Topic Page
American author whose writing explores the oppression suffered by African Americans. His works include the novel Native Son (1940) and the autobiography Black Boy (1945).