Black Literature Criticism
The study of African American literature typically begins with examining slavery and its meaning to history in this country and its relationship with the American ideal of “freedom.” Many early writers in the genre strove to forge a new narrative form that would not only focus on the overall dehumanization of individuals through slavery in America but also examining and exploring the cultural consciousness that allowed forced migration to occur and proliferate in the first place in the so-called “land of the free.”
The period of Reconstruction following the Civil War led to literature that was more uplifting and socially conscious than in the past. Then, during the Harlem Renaissance and subsequent Black arts era, many writers began to produce fiction, poetry, and theater to create a cultural nationalism to combat Jim Crow disenfranchisement and segregation. This eventually led to the modern civil rights movement that spawned its own brand of contemporary African American literature that heralded neo-slavery, Black postmodernism, and the inclusion of Black feminism and other sexual challenges.
Today, Black literature criticism continues to develop and explore new ways of representing and examining the existing representation of race and racial identity through the exploration of the fields of gender, sexuality, and politics.