African-American Lit

  • Category: Psychology
  • Words: 778
  • Grade: 100
The books wrote by African-Americans have varied throughout the years
on subject matter. From cooking books, to books on carpentry, to novels, and poems all
with their own style of writing that each subject matter calls for. A closer look and
evaluation of these literary pieces shows a vein that runs through all of them, a vein that
ties them all together to one period of time in our history.
                The years of enslavement in the United States and even before the U.S.
was formed have left a deep impression on how all the preceding black communities
behave and how we see ourselves fitting into the rest of society. The earliest books that
were wrote by blacks are the slave narratives and some anti-slavery columns in
abolitionists newspapers, and they shed light on the conditions of the south and shattered
the view of slavery as a symbiotic relationship between kind slave owner and proud
happy slaves to pieces. One such book, "The Incidents in The Life of a Slave Girl" is an
eye opening slave narrative that tells of the many unbelievable hardships that former
slave Linda Brent faced during her life. The lies that were told to keep slavery a legal
institution where often thoroughly proved lies by these slave narratives, "Slaveholders
pride themselves upon being honorable men; but if you were to hear the enormous lies
they tell their slaves, you would have small respect for their veracity."(Brent 42). When
post slavery America got to really evaluate and study these writings in contrast to the
more recent writings of blacks you still see that underlying tone or meaning.
                During the Harlem Renaissance many novels and books were written by
black writers, many of which talked of how things are still bad for black people and how
we are in a kind of new slavery. Most stories told of how blacks shouldn't forget the
hardships that their ancestors had to face because there's nothing saying that it can't
happen again. Such a grim part of our history weighs heavily on the minds of all black
people, and rightfully so. Something that should never be forgotten and now in the
present many writers still write these slave novels and most are based on actual events.
Take "Beloved" for instance which was written in 1987, it's a very powerful novel and
really touches on a side of the slave experience that shocks people and opened people's
eyes. What I want to point out in this novel is the predominant inclusion of early
African-American folklore into the main story. When reading this story it occurred to me
that it read very much like the hants and folktales that I've read previous to "Beloved". I
could almost see this story being passed along by an old Griot beside a bonfire. The
opening sentences sounds so much like the opening to a hant that a storyteller would be
passing down to a group of listeners; "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom. The
women in the house knew it and so did the children."(Morrison 3). The old early
African-American folklore is a basis for many of the black writers today, because that's
really the first stories passed on by blacks. Passed on without anything being wrote down
for generations, stories of Brer Rabbit and John Henry are as old as the old Negro work
songs. All of which have morals and hidden messages within there entertaining
storylines. It usually takes some very intricate investigation of these stories to see what
the teller really means.
                Modern novels and short stories differ much in comparison to their spoken
ancestors except for the fact that the same folkways can be found sometimes very subtle
but they're there. For most African-Americans religion has been the mainstay of the
society, especially during slavery. Ever since the first African slaves were brought over
seas and taught Christianity, African-Americans have made it their own, through dance,
literature, and the many stories. In books written by blacks the value of Christianity
within at least some of the characters is very noticeable. In "Incidents of the Life of A
Slave Girl" many times religion was mentioned because that was what kept hope inside
the slaves and without it what else did they have. "The Best of Simple", a more modern
novel has the prevalent religious characters also, and with them comes out those
folkways that were passed down since the brer rabbit tales.
                Throughout our history on this continent African-Americans have been
faced with immeasurable hardships and the literary world has been an outlet. Black
writers continually write award winning novels and books on a variety of subjects and
gain respect in doing so, but through it all you can still faintly hear that tale of Brer
Rabbit and Mr. Fox between the lines.
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