The act of writing a book, as many writers before me have recognized, is a collaborative enterprise and results from contributions that flow from many levels of interaction. I have plumbed the depths of my memory and concluded that there are so many people to thank for their input into the project that I do not have space to thank them all. Thus it is my hope that all those individuals who do not find their names on these pages will know they are recorded in a space much more secure. But there are a number of people whose names I feel compelled to call, whose presence must be conjured. Jerry Singerman and Alison Anderson, my editors at the University of Pennsylvania Press, have seen this manuscript through each storm and trial with grace and wit. Rudolph P. Byrd, John Lowe, Vera Kutzinski, John Callahan, Lani Guinier, Vincent Peterson, Elizabeth Alexander, Marjorie Levenson, Rita Barnard, Dana Phillips, Craig Saper, John Roberts, Valerie Smith, and Bob Perelman all took time from their own work to read portions of the manuscript and offer valuable comments and suggestions. Leslie Collins, Charles Austin, Ericka Blount, Kia Brookins, and Nicole Brittingham provided invaluable support as research assistants. The members of my graduate seminar on Ellison, Gaines, and McPherson -- Tim Waples, Crystal Jones Lucky, Jeanine DeLombard, Dana Jackson, Amy Korn, Giselle Anatol, and Joe Watts -- sharpened my thinking and challenged me to see the works from a variety of perspectives. To each of you, let me say that the only thing I possess that outdistances your commitment is my gratitude.
I also wish to thank Hazel Carby, John Szwed, and Michael G. Cooke for their guidance during this project's beginnings as a dissertation. Though Professor Cooke did not live to see the project's completion, I must acknowledge him for his words at the end of what turned out to be our last encounter; they are words I continue to live by and cherish.
I must also acknowledge some of the people who are, and always shall be, sources of safe harbor: Douglas Banks, Johnny Jones, Carolyn