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32. The South in Contemporary African-American Fiction

A. Robert Lee

Subject Literature » American Literature
Race and Ethnicity Studies » African American Studies

Place United States of America » American South

Key-Topics fiction

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631224044.2004.00033.x


“You're black and living in the South – did you forget how to lie?” Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man (1952) John had read about the things white people did to colored people; how, in the South, where his family came from, white people cheated them of their wages, and burned them, and shot them – and did worse things, said his father, which the tongue could not endure to utter. James Baldwin, Go Tell It On The Mountain (1953) Neither of them a Southerner by birth, both Ellison and Baldwin, even so, issue reminders of the accusing memory, the bitter sting, that the South can hold for Afro-America. This is not to overlook in their two landmark novels, as in other black written fiction, a more fondly remembered Dixie of black family and kin and, in the storytelling by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and their fellow women authors, of longtime black Southern styles of mothering and sisterhood. Nor does it suggest that these do not link into, or find story form from, the yet wider, and more inclusive, intimacies of the South's black rural communities and townships and each different workplace and church congregation. But the South in view, and albeit written by the Oklahoma-raised Ellison and by Baldwin as vintage Harlem expatriate, bespeaks a familiar enough equation: one, since the importation aboard a Dutch vessel of “Twenty Negars” as indentured servants, to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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