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African American Literature

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Brittney Mihalich

on 14 October 2015

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Transcript of African American Literature

African American Literature
Phillis Wheatley 1753-1784
Came to Boston from Africa in 1761

Educated with the Wheatley family, her owners, in religion and
English literature

Went to London in 1773 with the Wheatleys' son to promote book of poems, where she met Ben Franklin

Pivotal for not only black literary tradition, but also black women's literary tradition

"On Being Brought from Africa to America"
- tone - audience
- meter & rhyme - alliteration
- inversion - race
Frederick Douglass 1818-1895
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself
- First of three autobiographies
- Family background: mother, father?
- Slave songs ----> blues
- Education
- Battle with Mr. Covey
- root talisman
- Escape and freedom

"You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man."
Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872-1906
Parents were slaves

Wrote in antebellum dialect similar to Twain's

High School friends with Wilbur and Orville Wright in Dayton, OH


"We Wear the Mask"
Maya Angelou's "The Mask" https://www.poeticous.com/maya-angelou/the-mask-1?locale=en

"Frederick Douglass"

*meter, tone, audience, conceits
Claude McKay 1889-1948
Langston Hughes 1902-1967
B. in Joplin, MO; grew up with grandmother in Lawrence, KS, and mother in Detroit and Cleveland. Father lived in Mexico.

Attended Columbia for one year; lived Paris, worked as a seaman, lived in DC working as a busboy (Busboys and Poets namesake)

"Bard of Harlem"

Communist Party ties after Great Depression --> Sen. McCarthy's "Red Scare"

His works match jazz rhythm: free verse, improv
Focus on modern urban culture

"Visitors to the Black Belt"
"Note on Commercial Theatre"
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15722
"I, Too"
"The Weary Blues"
"Harlem" aka "Dream Deferred"
Zora Neale Hurston 1891-1960
Grew up in Eatonville FL, close with mother who instilled self-confidence

Howard University, studied under Alain Locke; moved to Harlem after school

*oral narrative

Objective in writing

"How it Feels to Be Colored Me"
- sarcasm p. 2159 - turning point/loss of innocence
- metaphor p. 2159 - Slavery: "bully adventure"
- reaction to jazz music p. 2160 - Transcendentalism in Great Soul
- bag metaphor p. 2161
Countee Cullen 1903-1946
Like McKay, valued traditional forms

Adopted by family in Harlem; educated at NYU and Harvard

"Black Keats"

Married W.E.B. Du Bois's daughter Nina (didn't last), success declined

Taught at Frederick Douglass Junior High

- Litotes: ironic understatement
- Coda: "outro", allows listeners to take in the message, gain perspective
- effect of traditional verse?

- Italics - tone shifts - jungle - title
- Anaphora - allusion in 3rd stanza - coda - Phillis Wheatley - Twain
1. “Harlem Dancer”: p. 2145
a) Setting/Tone shifts at the volta? Focus on diction here.
b) Explain enjambment on lines 9-10: how are curls fell luxuriantly different than “curls Luxuriant fell…”
c) Poem’s overall message about the pleasures in watching v. performing?

2. “Harlem Shadows”: p. 2145
a) Explain repetition on lines 5/10/15
b) Explain parallelism of verbs on lines 6-12-18.
c) What is the subject and tone of this poem? Didn’t the subjects here (and in the above poem, too) choose their own way of life?

3. “America” p. 2147
a) Identify and explain the oxymoron in first quatrain.
b) Explain the 3 shifts in tone in each quatrain with diction.
c) Is McKay optimistic or is he saying that America will meet the same fate of all previous world powers? Use the volta in your explanation.

B. Jamaica, became American in 1940
Harlem Shadows
"initiated the Harlem Renaissance"

Two years of college (K State!) before NYC

Blue collar jobs (kitchen staff, waiter) while writing

Writes in traditional sonnet form

Supported Communism (another FBI target); spent many years overseas

Joined New Deal organization: Federal Writers' Project

Worked for Catholic Youth Organization in later years and converted to Catholicism before death in 1944
Booker T. Washington 1856-1915
- B. to unknown white man and slave; took step-dad's name "Washington"
- educated himself while working as a child; paid for education in Hampton VA by working as janitor
- Founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Literally built the school by hand!
- Agricultural and mechanical trades

- Views on the advancement of black citizens
- Contrasted with F. Douglass

Up from Slavery:
"Cast down your bucket where you are."

Reaction(s) to speech at Atlanta Exposition in 1895
- goal for this speech?

Political influences; presidential acquaintances

echoes of Thoreau: p. 1631 gewgaw?
litotes p. 1635 black clergy criticism

W.E.B. Du Bois 1868-1963
Grew up in Massachussetts, relates coming of age to being "shut out from their world by a vast veil" (... Dunbar, "We Wear the Mask")

Graduated from Fisk, Harvard, University of Berlin, yet could not secure appropriate work- shifts focus

"Twoness" and "Double Consciousness" from bio

Editor of "The Crisis- NAACP

Concerned with national as well as international inequality

Endorsed by MLK Jr. as "one of the most remarkable men of our time"

The Souls of Black Folk
- Direct challenges against BT Washington - tone? - veil
- How might Washington challenge Du Bois? - double-consciousness
- which writing style is more effective?
- How do the overall messages of the two differ?
The Harlem Renaissance
Journal: Five minutes
Summarize Du Bois’s main message in his first essay, from “The Souls of Black Folk”
- extended paragraph
NAACP: 1909, black officers in US armed forces +
Communist interests: equality and workers' rights +
Migration to cities, college attendance rises +
Great Migration beginning in 1915 +
Nineteenth Amendment --->
1920's = self-expression
**Emerson, "Whosoever would be a man, must be a non-conformist"

Harlem = 150,000+ African Americans by mid-1920's
- hub of writers, performers, composers, artists and musicians

Du Bois's "double consciousness": rural African American culture vs. urban intellectuality; American mainstream vs. prejudice; revolutionary movements vs. heritage

Langston Hughes critical of "the period when the Negro was in vogue", as evidenced in works
- uplifting, or exploitation?
Focused on different aspects of black life in the south, Harlem, and worldwide

Black dialects, through writing and expression, became as legitimate as standard English
Take a few minutes to read p. 936 "The slaves selected..." to the end of ch. 2

What is the significance, in hindsight, of the field songs Douglass heard as a child?
*bring your book to class.
"Battle with Mr. Covey"
Significance, supported with textual evidence

- Plot/key events
- Realism
- Regionalism: dialect, customs, superstitions
- Character analysis: personality traits, stereotypes, motivations, obstacles
1. Cite two examples from his bio of the magnitude
of his impact.
2. How did he earn his way through college?
3. What school did he start and what was its mission
or purpose? (bio)
4. What was the “Atlanta Compromise”? Summarize the reaction from whites and then from blacks. p. 1635.
5. What are his two beliefs on black citizens and voting? pp. 1637-38

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
"Dream Deferred"
Washington v. Du Bois
Political Campaign ~1900
Support your candidate with a persuasive campaign speech defending their potential to succeed in office

- each person must speak for one minute (three total)
- all statements must be supported with textual evidence: "Mr. Du Bois proposes on p. 1738 that "..."
- groups have 15 minutes to strategize
What is at stake??
FOUR percentage points of extra credit on Friday's test!!

- citizens will vote for best campaign based on persuasive delivery, argumentative appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) and consideration of previous campaigns
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