Black American Literature And Culture Essay

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According to Robert F. Reid-Pharr, “There is perhaps no strong impetus within the study of Black American literature and culture than the will to return, the desire to name the original, the source, the root, that seminal moment at which the many-tongued diversity of ancient West Africa gave way to the monolingualism of black North America” (135). Often this journey happens in black literature. Since the Emancipation Proclamation, former slaves, and occasionally non-slave abolitionists, have written or orated their accounts of living under America’s “peculiar institution.” These accounts were christened Slave Narratives and soon became a genre within themselves. In The Handbook of African American Literature Hazel Arnett Ervin defines the slave narrative as “A subgenre of the African American autobiography, written by former slaves, starting as early as 1760. Major themes are the inhumanity of the slave system—as experienced by the authors of the narratives—and antislavery activism” (124). Phillip Gould states in his article “The Economies of the Slave Narrative”: “Early black writers were sensitive to the terms of contemporary proslavery and antislavery debates. While lacking the rhetorical sophistication of later writers like Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, this early writing nevertheless skillfully deploys basic Enlightenment ideas about the nature of rights and individual identity” (93). Gould states that these early writings show that black writers “were capable…

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