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  • American Literature: Topic Page
    Literature in English produced in what is now the United States of America.
  • Biography: Topic Page
    Reconstruction in print or on film, of the lives of real men and women. Together with autobiography—an individual's interpretation of his own life—it shares a venerable tradition, meeting the demands of different audiences through the ages.
  • Harlem Renaissance: Topic Page
    Term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City.
  • Metaphor: Topic Page
    Figure of speech using an analogy or close comparison between two things that are not normally treated as if they had anything in common.
  • Nobel Prize: Topic Page
    Award given for outstanding achievement in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, peace, or literature.
  • Poetry: Topic Page
    Imaginative literary form, particularly suitable for describing emotions and thoughts.
  • Symbolism (Art movement): Topic Page
    In the arts, the use of symbols to concentrate or intensify meaning, making the work more subjective than objective. In the visual arts, symbols have been used in works throughout the ages to transmit a message or idea, for example, the religious symbolism of ancient Egyptian art, Gothic art, and Renaissance art.
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    From Encyclopedia of Black Studies
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X tells the life of Malcolm Little in a dramatic fashion that resonates with many members of the African American community. His life was lived with intensity and purpose, and in this book he describes the path that he took in a way that makes his story accessible to all.

Literary Works

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
    From Encyclopedia of Women's Autobiography
    Best known as a poet and prolific autobiographer, Maya Angelou chronicles her life story in a series of six memoirs, beginning in 1969 with the publication of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and concluding most recently with All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986).
  • Invisible Man
    From Brewer's Curious Titles
    The second novel with this title was by the black US writer Ralph Ellison (1914-94). Published in 1952, it won the 1953 National Book Award for fiction.
  • Native Son
    From The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English
    A novel by Richard Wright, published in 1940. It recounts the story of Bigger Thomas, a black ghetto dweller on the south side of Chicago, who is hired by a wealthy family as their chauffeur.
  • Roots
    From Brewer's Curious Titles
    A sociological study (1976), with fictional interpolations, by the African-American writer Alex Haley (1921-92). It purports to be a chronicle of his family through seven generations, beginning with the African, Kunte Kinte, who was brought as a slave from Gambia to Annapolis in 1767.
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    From Encyclopedia of Black Studies
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X tells the life of Malcolm Little in a dramatic fashion that resonates with many members of the African American community. His life was lived with intensity and purpose, and in this book he describes the path that he took in a way that makes his story accessible to all.

Authors

  • Alex Haley (1921-1992): Topic Page
    American writer best known for Roots (1976), a fictionalized chronicle tracing his family history back to its African origins.
  • Alice Walker (1944- ): Topic Page
    American writer whose works include the novels Meridian (1976) and The Color Purple (1982), for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.
  • Jamaica Kincaid (1949- ): Topic Page
    Born and raised in the West Indies British colony of Antigua, young Elaine—a prolific reader—was taught that all the greatest literature had been written in Britain prior to 1900. Although she had won scholarships to colonial schools in Antigua, at age 16 Elaine fled to New York City to be an au pair, earning her room and board by doing domestic work for a white family.
  • James Baldwin (1924-1987): Topic Page
    Writer, born in Harlem, New York, USA. The son of a preacher, as a teenager he preached in a Harlem pentecostal church.
  • Langston Hughes (1902-1967): Topic Page
    American writer. Through his poetry, prose, and drama he made important contributions to the Harlem Renaissance. His best-known works include Weary Blues (1926) and The Ways of White Folks (1934).
  • Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965): Topic Page
    Lorraine Hansberry’s writing was profoundly influenced by her family elders. Her uncle Leo Hansberry was a scholar of African history at Howard University, so Lorraine learned from an early age to link the experiences and challenges of African Americans with those of Africans struggling for liberation in their native land.
  • Maya Angelou (1928- ): Topic Page
    U.S. Black novelist, poet, and dramatist. Her works include the autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) and its sequels, the collection of poetry I Shall Not be Moved (1990), and Phenomenal Woman (1995).
  • Olaudah Equiano (c.1745-1797): Topic Page
    Although Equiano wasn’t the first African-born former slave to tell his life experiences of enslavement and emancipation, he was the first to write his life story himself, without help or direction from white ghostwriters, amanuenses, or editors.
  • Phillis Wheatley (c.1753-1784): Topic Page
    One of the earliest known African-American writers and the first to publish a book of poetry, former slave Phillis Wheatley has nevertheless been both revered and ignored by the African-American community.
  • Ralph Ellison (1914-1994): Topic Page
    US novelist. His Invisible Man (1952) portrays with humour and energy the plight of a black man whom post-war US society cannot acknowledge.
  • Richard Wright (1908-1960): Topic Page
    American author whose writing explores the oppression suffered by African Americans. His works include the novel Native Son (1940) and the autobiography Black Boy (1945).
  • Toni Morrison (1931- ): Topic Page
    American writer who won the 1993 Nobel Prize for literature. Her novels, such as Sula (1973) and Beloved (1987), examine the experiences of African Americans.
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