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A guide to African-American literature

African-American poets and authors have written major works of literature. Several of them are well-known globally , such as Alice Walker and James Baldwin. This article suggests some reasons why African-American literature is held in high esteem.

African-American slave literature

Slave narratives Quite a number of slave narratives have survived as African-American books from the eighteenth century. One of the most influential authors, and most remembered in Black History Month in both the UK and USA is Frederick Douglass, whose autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was first published in 1845, and rewritten and republished as My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855. Race, religion, education W.E.B. Du Bois wrote influential essays and contemplations on racism in relation to religion which were somewhat confrontational. His contemporary, Booker T. Washington preferred to encourage black Americans to better themselves through education and ambition to increase their social status.

African-American poets

Famous poets There have been a number of respected African-American poets beginning with Phillis Wheatley in the eighteenth century. Paul Laurence Dunbar became recognised in the late nineteenth century, and culminating with the current very famous woman poet, Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou Maya follows the African-American literary tradition of autobiographical writing too, in that she has written six very famous best-selling autobiographical books in addition to her emotive and much quoted poetry.

African-American novelists

Influential best-selling African-American novelists Probably the two best-selling African-American novelists to date are Alex Hailey and Alice Walker, although Toni Morrison also continues to be very influential in American literature. All the three novelists write about what it is to experience the world as a black descendent of forefathers in slavery. Roots Hailey's remarkable saga series tracing dynasties of African-Americans from the beginnings of their slave capture, through the days of slavery and into the present, became world famous and is still very much read.

Martin Luther King

Current works Probably the most quoted and best remembered African-American writer is Martin Luther King, whose rhetoric and considered political arguments greatly influenced a generation of protestors who campaigned for rights and freedoms common to white Americans. Many black authors' literary works continue to be published in the twenty first century.

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