To Make a Poet Black

To Make a Poet Black

To Make a Poet Black

To Make a Poet Black

Excerpt

It has long seemed important to bring together certain factual material and critical opinion on American Negro literature in a sort of history of Negro thought in America. A quarter of a century ago the task would have been considered a waste of time, for the material (and this combined with its relative paucity) was thought to have little bearing upon the general tide of American life. Even the profound influence of the spirituals and other folk matter upon native culture was not fully realized. But change came: the interest of both scholars and laymen was aroused. In the past few years many things have combined to reveal the importance of literary development among Negroes since Jupiter Hammon.

Today no one who studies even superficially the history of the Negro in America can fail to see the uncommon relationship of his letters to that history; nor can one fail to remark that literary expression for the Negro has not been, and is not wholly now an art in the sense that the poetry and prose of another people, say the Irish, is art. Almost from the very beginning the literature of the Negro has been literature either of purpose or necessity, and it is because of this that it appeals as much to the cognitive as to the conative and affective side of man's being. The study of the literature of these dark Americans becomes, therefore, a practical, as opposed to a purely speculative, exercise.

What results are obtained from such a study, it is the purpose of this book to indicate. No apology is offered for excluding certain writers whose work, well thought of, simply has no bearing upon the important trends and developments either of thought or forms of expression. The material of an . . .

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