Up until my sophomore year of College, I was exposed to very little literature produced by Blacks… And oh, I truly do mean very little. This was wrong to me in more than one way: one, it highlighted the lack of diverse literature my American education exposed me to, and two, I felt horrible about being black yet still ignorant about my history. After feeling ashamed about my ignorance, I decided to enroll in courses that placed an emphasis on African American literature and in hindsight, I compiled three quick reasons why you should too!
You’ll begin to understand some connections between literature and revolution
When discussing revolution we usually give the most credit to those who actively protest, organize or war their way to revolution or social change. This is understandable. After all, these are the people who had the courage to take action and bring about change in the real world. But sometimes this forces us to overlook the fact that many African American writers too spearheaded change with their thoughts and words. Before I took a course focusing on African American literature I overlooked literature as a revolutionary tool. For example, slave narratives highlighted the oppressive and cruel conditions slaves were subjected to in the South. These narratives not only provided necessary first person accounts, but they also spurred important Northern Abolitionist movements.
You may discover an amazing African American writer you haven’t heard of yet
Yes, you already know the works of: Toni Morrison, W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston… But what else?
American education is overwhelmingly Eurocentric. It is no secret. Unfortunately, this means there is only space for a few “canonical” African American pieces to be taught in school. Although, the aforementioned authors are undoubtedly spearheads in Black Literature this leaves many authors who are overlooked and undervalued.
A course on African American literature allows you to venture past the “Black Literary Canon” in search of works that provide unique perspectives, stories and genres you may have not been exposed to. There is a great feeling when a professor exposes you to equally valuable yet lesser known pieces of literature. Here are some lesser known works you can check out here.
They …are… friggin’ …good!
Last, but not least…Some of these stories are ab-so-lute-ly stellar! Some are so compelling and well-written that they absolutely transcend race altogether. After all that is what a good piece of writing does, it is able to somehow intrigue and connect people from all backgrounds.