African American Literature
The African American literature appeared as a reaction to the discrimination and exploitation of the African American people in Euro-American community. Their type of literature is totally different from the other Americans` literature concerning themes and subject matters. In America and after the decline of the Britain as a ruling power in the 20th century, the community began to experience migrations , rootlessness and different types of exile, which led to changes in individuals and cultures. As every era has its own literature that goes in accordance with its peoples tests, needs and desires, the African-American literature of the 20th century written by minorities feeling inferior and isolated in the society expressed alienation and exile. The discrimination and low importance practiced by the majority white people in America towards the powerless, in educated and poor African American people produced a number of writers, lived in America or England, who undertake the responsibility of contributing to the expansion of exile literature. The prevailed themes in their literature were: displacement, social isolation, discrimination, alienation, and homeless. The alienated or exiled person is the one who lives in another country rather than his own or the one who lives in his own country but still feels the social and cultural void of exile. According to (Jarret, 2006), The definition of African American literature is, within the academy, more limiting than the writer’s ethnicity, often identified in anthologies by the racial themes and topics that the writers explore within their works. Moreover, anthologies often include subcategories that display the variety within the greater African American genre, such as the Wiley Blackwell’s division that separates nationalist African American writers from modernist ones ((Jarrett, The Wiley Blackwell Anthology of African American Literature Volume 2).
The origin of African American literature goes back to slave narratives- African American authors who usually could not read and write, but they told their stories about their miserable life to Euro-Americans who were educated and wrote their stories. This period marks the first half of the 19th- century. Lucy Terry`s poem “Bars Fight” in 1746, is the oldest piece of African American literature. This poem remained unpublished until 1855. In the early 20th-century, some African American started to write about the African American issues, such as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois.
Richard Wright is the African American author who belongs to the first half of the 20th –century. In this period the literary movement by the name Harlem Renaissance began, giving a chance to black artists to actively participate in the American society. The black artists of the Harlem Renaissance “Rejected the notion of the racial struggle as the sole mission of the black elite. Instead, this group was dedicated to literature and the arts as paths to uplift the black race,” (The Queen of the Harlem Renaissance 52). Richard wright and Zora Neale Hurston, were the two prominent authors of this period. Their approaches to this era were vastly different, but their aim was the same, which was to promote the literary works of the black people. On the on hand, there was agreement between the two authors concerning the aim of the movement and on the other hand, Wright and Hurston had totally different approaches. Hurston was interested in bridging the cultural gap between blacks and whites, while Write moved farther to obtain equality between races.
According to Aberjhani (2003), this movement started after the Great Migration ” when the masses of blacks living in the rural south made their way to the urban centers of the North and Midwest”. The period is called by this name because of the Harlem communities in New York City. It was the place where black artists and intellectuals all over the nation gathered and produced their literary works. It was also called the New Negro Movement (Graham, 1998).