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Survey of African American Literature

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Free «Survey of African American Literature» Essay Sample

Annotated Bibliography

Madhubuti, Haki. “Introduction to Black Literature/ African American Literature”. Black History Month. n.p., n.d. Web. 19 March 2013.

African American literature appeared in the United States and was a very important stage of development of African American culture. The genre of African American literature aroused in the 18th century. Its representatives are such writers as Olaudah Equiano and Phillis Wheatley, who worked with the slave narrative. They were also the representatives of the Harlem Renaissance. The modern authors are Walter Mosley, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, whose works are bestsellers in the United States. African American literature is represented by gospel music, sermons, spirituals, and blues.

“African American literature”. ”. Black History Month. n.p.,n.d. Web. 19 March 2013.

Before the American Civil War, African American literature revealed the issues of slavery. The slave narrative was very popular as well as revealing the problems of religion, culture, equality, and freedom. The authors like Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright that were writing during the American Civil Rights movements outlined the issues of Black Nationalism and segregation. There are three distinct forms of the slave narrative: religious redemption tales, tales of progress, and abolitionist struggle inspirational tales.

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Hutchinson, George. “Harlem Renaissance”, Encyclopedia Britannica, n.p., n.d. Web. 19 March 2013.

The Harlem Renaissance (1918–1937) was the period of blooming of African American culture, especially of the sphere of art. As for the African American literary history, it was the most ultimate movement. It was the period of the development of theatrical, visual and musical arts. Literature in general was aimed to present the new meaning of the old term “Negro” and get rid of the white stereotypes which influenced the relationship between the black people and their own heritage.

The Great Migration of African Americans from South to North was the period of big social foundations, the rising of dramatic literacy level, certain socioeconomic opportunities, and the foundation of national organizations that fought for the civil rights of African Americans.

Harris, Trudier. “The Trickster in African American Literature”. TeacherServe. National Humanities Center, n.d. Web. 19 March 2013.

It should be mentioned that the world oral traditions include trickster tales that were popular in African American culture. African American folk tradition that was developed in the United States is also represented by tricksters. A lot of such stories were influenced by folk traditions, wildlife, and the landscape of Africa. Usually, the trickster tales are just a source of humor. However, they also contain serious writings on the present inequity in the country with a promise of democracy denied to so many people. Such things and problems become clearer with the trickster figures in the literary adaptations. Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories that were published in 1881 and became very popular are a good example of the trickster tales.

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Daniels, Melissa Asher & Laski, Gregory.  “African American and African Diaspora Studies”. African American Review 44.4 (2011). Web. 19 March 2013.

The book What Was African American Literature? by Kenneth W. Warren has recently become the topic of many conversation and conventions arguing that “the collective enterprise we now know as African American literature is of rather recent vintage”. According to Warren, African American literature emerged during the epoch of state-sanctioned racial segregation.

Jackson, Joyce Marie. “The Changing Nature of Gospel Music: A Southern Case Study”.African American Review 29.2 (1995). Web. 19 March 2013.

The roots of African American gospel music are unfortunately not that well documented. Most of the early recordings and other documentation were lost. In addition, the stories behind the songs were not written down. Gospel music of African Americans forms a significant expression and is defined as crossing of music, poetry, drama and dance mixed together. It is quite obvious that gospel music shows a strong connection with African roots.

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Despite the fact that gospel music is powered by “folk church” tradition of the African Americans, it attracts lots of people that identify it with aesthetics, African American expression of values, and its specific expression of religion.

Traditional gospels were used to set a special mood for a service of morning worshiping. Contemporary gospel may be also used in a worship service, but it is usually a concert performance. As for the urban contemporary gospel, it is usually for the people who have never heard the gospel message on the radio station or on television.

Tanner, Michael. “The Gospel According to Brother Michael”. Crosscurrents. n.p., n.d. Web. 19 March 2013.

The genre of gospel music experienced many changes. After the time when rural African Americans migrated to bigger cities of the South and North, gospel music has changed significantly. It was after the period of economic rise and upcoming of urban finesse, when gospel music lost its melody, harmony, and structure.

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At the beginning of 1871, Fisk Jubilee Singers, African Americans students of the Fisk University, that is situated in Nashville, Tennessee, were making a tour around America. . They sang spirituals and had a great success. In 1800, the new style called Ragtime was turning into what is nowadays called “Jazz music”. It was originally named in 1917 by the San Francisco Newspaper. Gospel had its influence on jazz and blues. Further, in 1900, blues and jazz were influencing gospel music itself.

Holden, Stephen. “The Power of Voices Lifted in Song”. The New York Times. 2011. Web. 19 March 2013.

Just like other musical genres, African American gospel is a flowing connection between its roots and innovations. The most important fact is that faith was always the core of this genre.


The history of African American literature and gospel is unique due to its specific historical aspects. The big problem of slavery in U.S. history had the most important impact on literary works. In the course of time, African American literature was changing and getting its originality. Moreover, it became a mainstream not only among the African Americans but in the whole American society. Concerning gospel music, perhaps this is the only one known fact in the world history of arts, when religion oriented writings became a style. Moreover, this style gave an impulse to the appearance of many modern musical genres. The given research shows that historical events in American history where reflected in literature and music, beginning from the slave narrative to the modern music like Jazz. It is a common knowledge that every period gains popularity due to certain events in the history. There were many difficult periods in the world history, and African Americans suffered a lot from the wrong attitude and humiliation. However, nowadays there is no doubt that African American culture is an integral part of American history. What is more, it influenced different branches of American art.

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