Werner Sollorsâ African American Writing takes a fresh look at what used to be called âNegro literature.â 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.Â
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 Chesnuttâs 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 authorsâ writing and in their encounters and dialogues with others. The essays, accompanied by Winold Reissâs pastels, Carl Van Vechtenâs photographs, and other portraits, attempt to honor this important literatureâs achievement, heterogeneity, and creativity.