African American Literature

Topics: African American, Black people, American Civil War Pages: 6 (2030 words) Published: March 19, 2008
African-American Influence on American literature
African American literature can be summarized as the writings of authors from African descent. In the United States, African descendents have had very different experiences from each others depending on where they lived. In the southern states of the United States, Blacks have been really oppressed until the Civil War, with the big part being illiterate well into the end of 1800. In the northern states ,Blacks had a considerable greater freedom, and with the end of the Civil War, a new and educated African American social class emerged. African American literature was influenced by these factors, and it varied greatly but it always held undeniable similarities, circling the Black experience in America. The very first African American writings tried to put into perspective the role of Black Americans in American. What it meant to be an American was often explored in literature and served as a central theme in many works of literature. African American literature tried, and still does, to illustrate the implications of the African-American presence in the United States. The writings of many early authors have confronted the Declaration of Independence's "allegation" that in America all citizens had a right to freedom and equality. Prior to the Civil War the country's opinion that all men were created equal had it limitations; it was unofficially agreed on that it really only all "white" men were created equal.

The very beginnings of a Black literature in American was confused, there was resistance from the white community in allowing Blacks to be educated, but as late as the 1700's some authors African descent managed write and to publish their writings. Is it believe that Jupiter Hammon is the first African American to have ever published a work of literature in the United States (Wikipedia); his poem "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries" was published in 1761. Phillis Wheatley was another early author; her book of poems, entitled Poems on Various Subjects was published in 1773. During this era discrimination was so strong that many people doubted that Wheatley actually had written her poems, she had to prove in court that she was the author. Literature also offered some African Americans power and influence, Frederick Douglas was one of these; he had been born in slavery, but eventually escaped and became and a lecturer, orator and author. His speeches addressed issues on abolitionism. Frederick Douglas' autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which was published in 1845 made him the most influential African American of his time. At the time some critics attacked the book, not believing that a black man could have written such a good work. Independent of this, the book was an immediate bestseller. After the end of slavery and the American Civil War, a number of African American authors continued to write nonfiction works about the condition of African Americans in the country. One of these writers is W.E.B. Du Bois who lived from 1868–1963. 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 (Wikipedia). Du Bois also believed that since Blacks had a common interest they should work together to bring to end discrimination and social inequality.

Another important author of this time is Booker T. Washington who was an educator and the founder of the Tuskegee Institute, a Black college in Alabama (Wikipedia). In contrast to Du Bois, who adopted a more confrontational attitude toward ending racial strife in America, Washington believed that Blacks should first educate themselves and prove themselves equal to whites before demanding equality. Although his view was...

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