African-American Literature the African-American Literary Term Paper

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The Black Arts Era is characterized by powerful voices such as that of Ishmael Reed or Amiri Baraka. In his poem Black Art, Amiri Baraka potently draws attention to the need for a self-conscious black poetry which would accentuate intentionally all the features specific to the African-American culture. The harsh tone of the poem at the beginning and the almost raging, ferocious rhythm indicate the desire to awaken the spirit of the black to their individuality: "Poems are bull***** unless they are / teeth or trees or lemons piled / on a step...Poem scream poison gas on beasts in green berets / Clean out the world for virtue and love, / Let there be no love poems written / until love can exist freely and / cleanly."(Gates and McKay, 935) the poem starts in a harsh and even violent tone, to end in a soft voice speaking about love. The effect builds thus to indicate the need for a specifically black literature that will speak to the black people in their own language: "We want a black poem. And a / Black World / Let the world be a Black Poem / and Let All Black People Speak This Poem / Silently / or LOUD."(Gates and McKay, 935) the new literature thus has to be completely black and thus to follow all the rules of the cannon.

The Literature since 1975 rounds up the definition of the canon. Maya Angelou's Still I Rise is such an example. Angelou seems to speak only for herself, as the repetitive "Still I rise" indicates. However, it is plain that she speaks in the name of her people at the same time.
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The writer celebrates her own self as an emblematic image of the entire people. Pride and self-esteem are the major ingredients in the writer's cogent and powerful discourse. The verb "to rise" also suggests dignity and uprightness, in the attempt to correct the "history's shame": "Out of the huts of history's shame / I rise / Up from a past that's rooted in pain / I rise / I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide." (Gates and McKay, 991) the almost obsessive repetition of the verb "I rise" suggests an incessant ascension towards a future that is blessed with the wondrous clarity of the daybreak.

The African-American cannon can thus be defined as a people's continuous search for identity and an attempt to create a strong ground that would overcome the white dominance. Throughout the ages, the African-American literature has grown with the black race, emerging with it from slavery and finally finding its own voice and identity.

Works Cited

Dept. Of State: International Information Programs: Publications - Outline of American Literature." International Information Programs. Apr. 2002. U.S. Department of State. 18 Mar. 2008 http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/oal/amlitweb.htm.

Gates, Henry L., and Nellie Y. McKay, eds. The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. New York W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Gorski, Paul C. "Classic African-American Literature." EdChange Multicultural Pavilion. 2008. EdChange. 18 Mar. 2008 http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/sites/aframdocs.html.

Keenan, AM. "African-American Review." African-American Review. 5 Mar. 2008. Saint Louis University. 16 Mar. 2008 http://aar.slu.edu/.

Lightfoot, Judy. "Judy Lightfoot PhD - Some Characteristics of African-American Literature." Judy Lightfoot. 18 Mar. 2008 http://home.earthlink.net/~judylightfoot/afrchar.html.

Ramsey, Inez. "African-American Writers Online: E-Texts." African-American Writers Online: E-Texts. Internet School Library Media…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Dept. Of State: International Information Programs: Publications - Outline of American Literature." International Information Programs. Apr. 2002. U.S. Department of State. 18 Mar. 2008 http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/oal/amlitweb.htm.

Gates, Henry L., and Nellie Y. McKay, eds. The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. New York W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Gorski, Paul C. "Classic African-American Literature." EdChange Multicultural Pavilion. 2008. EdChange. 18 Mar. 2008 http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/sites/aframdocs.html.

Keenan, AM. "African-American Review." African-American Review. 5 Mar. 2008. Saint Louis University. 16 Mar. 2008 http://aar.slu.edu/.

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