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Afro-America, The Before Columbus Foundation and The Literary Multiculturalization of America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 January 2009

A. Robert Lee
A. Robert Lee is Reader in American Literature, Darwin College, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NY, England.


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1 Gayle, Addison Jr (ed.) The Black Aesthetic (New York: Doubleday Anchor, 1971), “Introduction,” xxiiGoogle Scholar.

2 Relevant accounts of black 1960s include: Brooks, Thomas R., Walls Come Tumbling Down, 1940–70 (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1974)Google Scholar; Levitan, Sar A. et al. , Still A Dream: The Changing Status of Blacks Since 1960 (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Meier, August and Rudwick, Elliot, Along The Color Line (Urbana, Indiana: Illinois University Press, 1976)Google Scholar; Sitkoff, Harvard, The Struggle For Black Equality, 1954–80 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981)Google Scholar; and Williams, Juan, Eyes On The Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954–1965 (New York: Viking Penguin, 1987)Google Scholar.

3 Fuller, Hoyt's principal essay-work is to be found in Negro Digest, Black World, Southwest Review, Ebony, Journal of Negro History, African Forum, Nation, The New Yorker, North American Reviews, Jet, The Critic and Journal of American Poetry. Of immediate relevance, too, is his Journey To Africa (Chicago: Third World, 1971)Google Scholar.

4 “Towards A Black Aesthetic” originally appeared in The Critic (0405 1967)Google Scholar: The Black Aesthetic, 4.

5 Karenga, Ron, “Black Cultural Nationalism,” Negro Digest (01 1968)Google Scholar: The Black Aesthetic, 31–7.

6 A helpful account of this reaction can be found in Walsh, Richard, “‘A Man's Story is His Gris-Gris’: Cultural Slavery, Literary Emancipation and Ishmael Reed's Flight To Canada,” Journal of American Studies, 27, (04 1993), 5771CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Warren, Robert Penn and Brooks, Cleanth, Understanding Poetry (New York: Holt, 1938)Google Scholar and Understanding Fiction (New York: Crofts, 1943)Google Scholar; Ransom, John Crowe, The New Criticism (Norfolk, Connecticut: New Directions, 1941)Google Scholar; Tate, Allen, The Language of Poetry (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1942)Google Scholar; and I'll Take My Stand: The South and The Agrarian Tradition By Twelve Southerners (New York: Harper, 1930)Google Scholar. Gayle, however, extended his indictment to white critics equally suspicious of New Criticism: “One does not waste energy on the likes of Selden Rodman, Irving Howe, Theodore Gross, Louis Simpson, Herbert Hill or Robert Bone.” “Introduction,” The Black Aesthetic, xxi.

8 Bone, Robert, The Negro Novel in America (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1952, Revised Edition, 1965)Google Scholar.

9 “Black Cultural Nationalism.” Other key contributions to the Black Aesthetic debate include: Gayle, Addison Jr (ed.), Black Expression: Essays by and about Black Americans in the Creative Arts (New York: Weybright and Talley, 1969)Google Scholar; Cook, Mercer and Henderson, Stephen E., The Militant Black Writer in Africa and the United States (Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969)Google Scholar; Williams, John A. and Harris, Charles F. (eds.), Amistad 1: Writings on Black History and Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1970)Google Scholar and Amistad 2: Writings on Black History and Culture (New York: Vintage Books, 1971)Google Scholar; Jones, LeRoi/Baraka, Amiri, Raise, Race Rays, Raze: Essays Since 1965 (New York: Random House, 1971)Google Scholar; Baker, Houston Jr, Black Literature in America (New York: McGraw Hill, 1971)Google Scholar; Kent, George,Blackness and The Adventure of Western Culture (Chicago: Third World Publishing, 1972)Google Scholar; Special Issue of Mid Continent American Studies Journal, 11, (Fall 1972)Google Scholar; Henderson, Stephen, Understanding The New Black Poetry (New York: Morrow, 1973)Google Scholar; Major, Clarence (ed.), The New Black Poetry (New York: Morrow, 1973)Google Scholar; and Gayle, Addison Jr, The Way of The New World: The Black Novel in America (New York: Doubleday, 1975)Google Scholar. One can also consult a number of the essays in Bigsby, C. W. E. (ed.), The Black American Writer, Vol. 1: Fiction, vol. 2: Poetry and Drama (Baltimore, Maryland: Pelican Books, 1971)Google Scholar. For a timely (and shrewd) overview see Cunliffe, Marcus, “Black Culture and White America,” Encounter, 34, (1970), 2235Google Scholar.

10 Typical of the reprints at the time were the Arno/The New York Times series (General Editor, William Loren Katz); the Mnemosyne Publishing Company reprints (Miami); the Chatham Bookseller Reprints; the Collier Books African/American Library (General Editor, Charles R. Larson); and compilations like Franklin, John Hope, Three Negro Classics: Up From Slavery, The Souls of Black Folks, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (New York: Avon Books, 1965)Google Scholar. New anthologies and collections likewise proliferated, notably Williams, John A. (ed.), The Angry Black (New York: Lancer, 1962)Google Scholar and Beyond the Angry Black (New York: Lancer, 1967, rev. ed. New York: New American Library, 1971)Google Scholar; Hill, Herbert (ed.), Soon, One Morning: New Writing by American Negroes 1940–1962 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963)Google Scholar and Anger, and Beyond: The Negro Writer in the United States (New York: Harper & Row, 1966)Google Scholar; Chapman, Abraham (ed.), Black Voices (New York: New American Library/Mentor, 1968)Google Scholar and New Black Voices (New York: New American Library/Mentor, 1972)Google Scholar; Emanuel, James A. and Gross, Theodore (eds.), Dark Symphony: Negro Literature in America (New York: The Free Press, 1968)Google Scholar; and Jones, LeRoi and Neal, Larry (eds.), Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1968)Google Scholar.

11 For a comprehensive analysis, see Macdonald, J. Fred, Blacks and White TV: Afro-Americans in Television since 1948 (Chicago: Nelson-Hall Publishers, 1983)Google Scholar.

12 Besides the criticism so far listed, the following give something of the overall range and depth of this renaissance: Butterfield, Stephen, Black Autobiography in America (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1974)Google Scholar; Harper, Michael S. and Stepto, R. B. (eds), Chants of Saints: A Gathering of Afro-American Literature, Art and Scholarship (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1979)Google Scholar; Lee, A. Robert (ed), Black Fiction: New Studies in the Afro-American Novel (London: Vision Press, 1980)Google Scholar; Bigsby, C. W. E., The Second Black Renaissance: Essays in Black Literature (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1980)Google Scholar; Lee, A. Robert, Black American Fiction Since Richard Wright (British Association of American Studies Pamphlet No. 11, 1983)Google Scholar; and Byerman, Keith E., Fingering The Jagged Grain: Tradition and Form in Recent Black Fiction (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1985)Google Scholar.

13 Baldwin, James, Notes of a Native Son (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955)Google Scholar, Nobody Knows My Name; More Notes of a Native Son (New York: Dial Press, 1961)Google Scholar and The Fire Next Time (New York: Dial Press, 1963)Google Scholar.

14 Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man (New York: Random House, 1952)Google Scholar.

15 For interpretation of (and bibliographical reference for) LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, see Sollors, Werner, Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones: The Quest for a “Populist Modernism” (New York: Columbia Press, 1978)Google Scholar; Brown, Lloyd W., Amiri Baraka (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980)Google Scholar; Lacey, Henry C., To Raise, Destroy and Create: The Poetry, Drama and Fiction of Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) (Troy, New York: The Whitson Publishing Company, 1981)Google Scholar; Harris, William J., The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: the Jazz Aesthetic (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1985)Google Scholar and Harris, William J. (ed), The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1991)Google Scholar.

16 Full references for this fiction run as follows: Wright, Richard, Native Son (New York: Harper, 1940)Google Scholar; Baldwin, James, Go Tell It On The Mountain (New York: Knopf, 1953)Google Scholar; Williams, John A., The Man Who Cried I Am (Boston: Little, Brown, 1967)Google Scholar; Killens, John O., 'Sippi (New York: Trident, 1967)Google Scholar; Bennett, Hal, Lord of The Dark Places (New York: Bantam Books, 1971)Google Scholar; Pharr, Robert Deane, S.R.O. (New York: Doubleday, 1971)Google Scholar; Gaines, Ernest, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (New York: The Dial Press, 1971)Google Scholar; Morrison, Toni, The Bluest Eye (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1970)Google Scholar; Walker, Alice, The Third Life of Grange Copeland (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970)Google Scholar; Demby, William, The Catacombs (New York: Pantheon, 1965)Google Scholar; Kelley, William Melvin, dem (New York: Doubleday, 1967)Google Scholar; Wideman, John, Hurry Home (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1970)Google Scholar; Forrest, Leon, There Is A Tree More Ancient Than Eden (New York: Random House, 1973)Google Scholar; Reed, Ishmael, The Free-Lance Pallbearers (New York: Doubleday, 1967)Google Scholar, Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down (New York: Doubleday, 1969)Google Scholar, and Mumbo Jumbo (New York: Doubleday, 1972)Google Scholar, and (ed.), 19 Necromancers From Now (New York: Doubleday, 1970)Google Scholar; Baldwin, James, Going To Meet The Man (New York: Dial, 1965)Google Scholar; McPherson, James Alan, Hue and Cry (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1969)Google Scholar; and Bambara, Toni Cade, Gorilla, My Love (New York: Random House, 1972)Google Scholar.

17 Kaufman, Bob, Solitudes Crowded With Loneliness (New York: New Directions, 1959)Google Scholar; Jones, LeRoi, The Dead Lecturer (New York: Grove Press, 1964)Google Scholar; Giovanni, Nikki, Black feeling Black talk Black Judgement (New York: William Morrow, 1970)Google Scholar; Harper, Michael, Dear John, Dear Coltrane (Pittsburgh: The University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970)Google Scholar; and Audre Lorde, Cables To Rage (London: Paul Breman, 1970)Google Scholar.

18 References are as follows: The Autobiography of Malcolm X (New York: Grove Press, 1964)Google Scholar; Carmichael, Stokely and Hamilton, Charles V., Black Power: The Politics of Liberation (New York: Vintage Books, 1967)Google Scholar; Cleaver, Eldridge, Soul On Ice (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968)Google Scholar; Jackson, George, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson (New York: Random House, 1970)Google Scholar; Brown, H. Rap, Die Nigger Die! (New York: Dial Press, 1969)Google Scholar; and Seale, Bobby, Seize The Time (New York: Random House, 1970)Google Scholar.

19 Clarke, John Henrik (ed), William Styron's Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968)Google Scholar.

20 Jones, and Neale, (eds), Black Fire, xviGoogle Scholar.

21 Cleaver, , Soul On Ice, 99Google Scholar.

22 Davis, Angela, If They Come in The Morning (New York: New American Library/Signet, 1971), 246–55Google Scholar. This trope is explored in Lee, A. Robert, “The Stance of Self-Representation: Moderns and Contemporaries in Afro-American Autobiography,” in Lee, A. Robert (ed), First Person Singular: Studies in American Autobiography (London: Vision Press, 1988), 151176Google Scholar.

23 For a history of these magazines see Johnson, Abby Arthur and Johnson, Ronald Maberry, Propaganda & Aesthetics: The Literary Politics of Afro-American Magazines in The Twentieth Century (Amherst, Massachusetts: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1979)Google Scholar, especially Chapter 6, “Black Aesthetic: Revolutionary Little Magazines, 1960–1976.”

24 Jones, LeRoi, Home Social Essays (New York: William Morrow & Co., Inc., Apollo Editions, 1966), 113Google Scholar.

25 Major, Clarence (ed.), The New Black Poetry (New York: International, 1969)Google Scholar.

26 Major, Clarence, The Dark and The Feeling: Reflections on Black American Writers and Their Works (New York: The Third Press, 1974), 28Google Scholar.

27 “The World and The Jug” was originally published in The New Leader (9 12 1963)Google Scholar. Reprinted in Ellison, Ralph, Shadow and Act (New York: Random House, 1966)Google Scholar.

28 Baker, Houston A. Jr, The Journey Back: Issues in Black Literature and Criticism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), xixiiGoogle Scholar. Baker, 's other work includes Workings of The Spirit: The Poetics of Afro-American Women's Writings (Boston: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1982)Google Scholar; Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984)Google Scholar; Modernism and The Harlem Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987)Google Scholar; (with Redmond, Patricia): Afro-American Study in the 1990s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990)Google Scholar.

29 For contributions to African-American scholarship by Gates see, principally, Gates, Henry Louis Jr (ed.), Black Literature and Literary Theory (New York: Methuen, 1984)Google Scholar; Figures in Black: Words, Sign and the Racial Self (New York: Methuen, 1984)Google Scholar; (ed), The Norton Anthology of Afro-American Literature (New York: Norton, 1990)Google Scholar; (ed.), Race, Writing and Difference (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986)Google Scholar; The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987)Google Scholar; Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthology (New York: Meridian, 1990)Google Scholar; (ed), The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers, 30 Vols (New York: Oxford University Press), 1988Google Scholar; and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992)Google Scholar. For other references see Stepto, R. B., From Behind The Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative (Urbana, Illinois: The University of Illinois Press, 1979)Google Scholar; Benston, Kimberley (ed), Speaking For You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1987)Google Scholar; O'Meally, Robert, The Craft of Ralph Ellison (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Cooke, Michael G., Afro-American Literature in the Twentieth Century: The Achievement of Intimacy (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984)Google Scholar; Christian, Barbara, Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984)Google Scholar; Carby, Hazel V., Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American Novelist (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987)Google Scholar; and Butler-Evans, Elliott, Race, Gender, and Desire: Narrative Strategies in the Fiction of Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989)Google Scholar.

30 Figures in Black, xx–xxviii.

31 The Way of The New World: The Black Novel in America, 257.

32 Accounts of this achievement include: Christian, Black Women Novelists; Evans, Mari (ed), Black Women Writers (1959–1980): A Critical Evaluation (New York: Anchor Books, 1984)Google Scholar; Pryse, Marjorie and Spillers, Hortense J. (eds.), Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction and Literary Tradition (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1985)Google Scholar; Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood; Wall, Cheryl A. (ed), Changing Our Own Words: Essays in Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1989)Google Scholar; Butler-Evans, , Race, Gender, and Desire; and Sandi Russell, Render Me My Song: African-American Women Writers From Slavery to the Present (London and New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990)Google Scholar.

33 In sequence these are I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (New York: Random House, 1970)Google Scholar; Gather Together in My Name (New York: Random House, 1974)Google Scholar; Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas (New York: Random House, 1976)Google Scholar; The Heart of a Woman (New York: Random House, 1981)Google Scholar; and All God's Children Need Travelling Shoes (New York: Random House, 1986)Google Scholar.

34 For Reed's relationship with Gayle, Fuller etc., see Martin, Reginald, Ishmael Reed & The New Black Aesthetic Critics (New York and London: The Macmillan Press, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 These have now been collected as The Stories of John Edgar Wideman (New York: Pantheon Books, 1992)Google Scholar.

36 McClusky, John, Look What They Done To My Song (New York: Random House, 1974)Google Scholar and Mr. America's Last Season's Blues (Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press, 1983)Google Scholar.

37 Walker, Margaret, For My People (New Haven Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1942)Google Scholar and Jubilee (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1966)Google Scholar.

38 Bradley, David, South Street (New York: Grossman/Viking, 1975)Google Scholar and The Chaneyville Incident (New York: Harper, 1981)Google Scholar.

39 These essays have still to be made accessible. For Toomer's other work, however, there is Turner, Darwin (ed.), Wayward Seeking: A Collection of Writings by Jean Toomer (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1980)Google Scholar.

40 Rampersad, Arnold, The Life of Langston Hughes, Volume 1: 19021941, Volume II: 1941–1967Google Scholar. For a “state of the art” on Hughes, see Lee, A. Robert, “‘Ask Your Mama’: Langston Hughes, The Blues and Recent Afro-American Studies,” Journal of American Studies, 24, (08 1990), 251–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41 “Everyday Use” appears in Walker, Alice, In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1973)Google Scholar; see also The Color Purple (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982)Google Scholar.

42 Afro-American Writing Today, 207.

43 Afro-American Writing Today, 26–27.

44 Reed, Ishmael, Writin' is Fightin': Thirty-Seven Years of Boxing on Paper (New York: Atheneum, 1988)Google Scholar.

45 I have been trying to map this multicultural American writing in a number of interconnected essays. See Lee, A. Robert, “Ethnic Renaissance: Rudolfo Anaya, Louise Erdrich and Maxine Hong Kingston,” pp. 139164, in Clarke, Graham (ed), The New American Writing: Essays on American Literature Since 1970 (London: Vision Press, 1990)Google Scholar; Ethnic America: The Non-European Voice,” The British American, 3, (06 1991), 910Google Scholar; “Acts of Remembrance: America as Multicultural Past in Ralph Ellison, Nicholasa Mohr, James Welch and Monica Sone,” pp. 81103, in Bak, Hans (ed), Multiculturalism and The Canon of American Literature (Amsterdam and New York: VU University Press, 1993)Google Scholar; “Decolonizing America: The Ethnicity of Ernest Gaines, José Antonio Villarreal, Leslie Marmon Silko and Shawn Wong,” pp. 269282, in Barfoot, C. C. and D'haen, Theo (eds), Shades of Empire in Colonial and Post-colonial Literatures (Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1993)Google Scholar; “Self-inscriptions: James Baldwin, Tomás Rivera, Gerald Vizenor and Amy Tan,” pp. 2042 and pp. 170178, in Lee, A. Robert (ed), A Permanent Etcetera: Cross Cultural Perspectives on Post-War America (London and Boulder: Pluto Press, 1983)Google Scholar, and “Eat a Bowl of Tea: Asian America in the Novels of Gish Jen, Cynthia Kadohata, Kim Ronyoung, Jessica Hagedorn and Tran Van Dinh,” pp. 263280, in Kelley, Lionel (ed), Ethnicity and Representation in American Literature, Modern Language Review/The Yearbook of English Studies (London, 1994)Google Scholar.

46 Reed, Ishmael, “The Ocean of American Literature,” in The Before Columbus Foundation Fiction Anthology, xxivxxvGoogle Scholar, and in The Before Columbus Poetry Anthology, xxivxxvGoogle Scholar.

47 Reed, Ishmael, “The Ocean of American Literature,” in The Before Columbus Foundation Fiction Anthology, xxviGoogle Scholar, and in The Before Columbus Foundation Poetry Anthology, xviGoogle Scholar. References in full are: Bloom, Allan, The Closing of The American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987)Google Scholar, Kimball, Roger, Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (New York: Harper and Row, 1990)Google Scholar, D'Souza, Dinesh, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus (New York: Maxwell, 1991)Google Scholar and Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr, The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992)Google Scholar. For an overview see Lee, A. Robert, “The Campus as Cockpit,” The Times Higher Education Supplement, 6 08 1993, pp. 1617Google Scholar.

48 Representative European collections on American multiculturalism include: Lenz, Gunter H. (ed), History and Tradition in Afro-American Culture (Frankfurt and New York: Campus Verlag, 1984)Google Scholar; von Bardeleben, Renate, Dietrich Briesemeister and Juan Bruce-Novoa (eds), Missions in Conflict: Essays on U.S.-Mexican Relations and Chicano Culture (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1986)Google Scholar; Bak, Hans (ed), Multiculturalism and The Canon of American Culture (Op. Cit., 1993)Google Scholar; and Kelley, Lionel (ed), Ethnicity and Representation in American Literature (Op. Cit., 1994)Google Scholar.

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