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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: May 2011

28 - African American literatures and New World cultures

from PART III - AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE AS ACADEMIC AND CULTURAL CAPITAL

Summary

Although hardly unknown among scholars of African American literature, George Schuyler's 1926 article “The Negro-Art Hokum” is more famous for having prompted Langston Hughes to write his landmark essay, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” than for having persuaded Schuyler's readers that black and white literatures were largely indistinguishable from one another. Schuyler insisted that “the literature, painting, and sculpture of Aframericans…is identical in kind with the literature, painting, and sculpture of white Americans: that is, it shows more or less evidence of European influence.” More a provocation than a sociology of literary production in the United States and the New World, Schuyler's argument nonetheless helpfully frames two questions that, implicitly and explicitly, have always attended discussions of African American literature: are there qualities and characteristics that distinguish literary production and practice by African-descended peoples in the Americas from the literatures produced by individuals who emigrated from Europe or Asia? And how has the presence of African-descended peoples shaped the institution of literature in the various nations of the Americas? Schuyler argued that so-called racial characteristics were really the products of subgroups.