African American Writing

A Literary Approach

Werner Sollors
Book Cover

PB: $35.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-1337-6
Publication: Apr 16

HC: $99.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1336-9
Publication: Apr 16

Ebook: $35.00
EAN: 978-1-4399-1338-3
Publication: Apr 16

296 pages
6 x 9
4 color photos, 1 line drawings, 8 halftones

Essays that honor the achievement of African American writers from the Enlightenment to the present

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Werner Sollors’ African American Writing takes a fresh look at what used to be called “Negro literature.” The essays collected here, ranging in topic from Gustavus Vassa/Olaudah Equiano to LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, and in time from the Enlightenment to the Obama presidency, take a literary approach to black writing and present writers as readers and as intellectuals who were or are open to the world.

From W.E.B. Du Bois commenting on Richard Wagner and Elvis Presley, to Zora Neale Hurston attacking Brown v. Board of Ed. in a segregationist newspaper, to Charles Chesnutt’s effigy darkened for the black heritage postage stamp, Sollors alternates between close readings and broader cultural contextualizations to delineate the various aesthetic modes and intellectual exchanges that shaped a series of striking literary works.

Readers will make often-surprising discoveries in the authors’ writing and in their encounters and dialogues with others. The essays, accompanied by Winold Reiss’s pastels, Carl Van Vechten’s photographs, and other portraits, attempt to honor this important literature’s achievement, heterogeneity, and creativity.

Table of Contents


1. Olaudah Equiano, an Enlightenment Cosmopolitan in the Age of Slavery
2. The Philadelphian Novelist Frank Webb Anticipates the Future
3. The Goopher in Charles W. Chesnutt’s Conjure Tales: Superstition, Ethnicity, and Modern Metamorphoses
4. Jean Toomer’s Cane: Modernism and Race in Interwar America
5. African American Intellectuals and Europe between the Two World Wars
6. W. E. B. Du Bois in Nazi Germany, 1936
7. Modernization as Adultery: Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, and American Culture of the 1930s and 1940s
8. Of Mules and Mares in a Land of Difference; or, Quadrupeds All?
9. The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois
10. Owls and Rats in the American Funnyhouse: Adrienne Kennedy’s Drama
11. LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Dutchman
12. Obligations to Negroes Who Would Be Kin if They Were Not Negro


About the Author(s)

Werner Sollors is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Research Professor of English Literature at Harvard University and Global Professor of Literature at New York University Abu Dhabi. He is the co-editor (with Greil Marcus) of A New Literary History of America and the author of Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture, Neither Black nor White yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature, and The Temptation of Despair: Tales of the 1940s.