4 April 2012
The Double Edged Sword of African American Literature
Throughout history, little by little our great country has progressed, from a nation that was barely getting on its own feat in the early 1800’s to legalizing the rights of every American citizen within the United States during the1960’s. But what about the African Americans? Anyone who is familiar with our American culture and History can tell you that African Americans have played a major role in our histories movements for a better tomorrow. For example As African Americans' place in American society has changed over the centuries, so, has the focus of African-American 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. At the turn of the 20th century, non-fiction works by authors debated whether to confront or appease racist attitudes in the United States. During the American Civil Rights movement, authors wrote about issues of racial segregation and Black Nationalism. Today, African-American literature has become accepted as an essential part of America however like a double edge sword African American literature brought in good aspects as well as of the much bad. One of the greatest influences that took place in our American History that even continues to affects us today, an event that resulted into a bloody conflict that would tear the nation apart, the civil war cemeteries and battle fields today are grave reminders of the lives that have been ended and shattered by the brutality of the war. The North’s resistance to slavery and the south’s insistence on the states’ rights to slavery would make an upturn shift from romanticism to realism to the cultural and social forces affecting the nation. “Walt Whitman claimed that “the United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem” Poets continue to emulate the free verse of Whitman and his exploration of the self in relationship to the world” (American Literature 328). One of the first real literary art works that grew public attention during the civil war was an author by the name Fredrick Douglass. Fredrick Douglass was an African American who struggles to learn to read and to write in a society that made it a crime for enslaved persons to attain knowledge through literacy. In Fredrick Douglass’s autobiography “My Bondage and My Freedom” Douglass talks about how he first came to start learning to read and how his mistress had first began to teach him, but abruptly stopped “the good lady had not only ceased to instruct me, herself, but had set her face as a flint against my learning to read by any means” (American literature 339). But it was already too late Fredrick already had became determined to learn more so anytime he was ever sent to go run errands for the workers in the Baltimore shipyards he would often trade a biscuit for a lesson. Douglass’s life story became a best seller when published in 1845. One reviewer called it “a specimen of powers of the black race, which prejudice persisted in disputing”. Douglass spent time with many other abortionists during the 1850’s including Harriet Beecher Stowe author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (American Literature 338). Until the end of the Civil War, the majority of African Americans had been enslaved and lived in the South. After the end of slavery, the emancipated African Americans began to strive for civic participation, political equality and economic and cultural self-determination. By the late 1870s, conservative whites managed to regain power in the South. From 1890 to 1908 they proceeded to pass legislation that disenfranchised most Negros and many poor whites, trapping them without representation. They established white supremacist regimes of Jim Crow segregation in the South and one-party block voting behind southern Democrats. The...
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