African-American or Black authors, the flip side of the American literary idealists, are traversing barriers to enter into the mainstream writing and publishing world. Their inspiration is the development and popularity of indigenous “black" music, dance, visual arts, architecture, and famous names in different fields.
The journey has been long and eventful, with authors being limited to specific genres dictated by lifestyle and social place in American society. The early works were mostly memoirs, slave narratives, Sunday school literature, or oratory dealing with twin issues of racism and slavery.
Lone voices were there, but the real breakthrough came with the Harlem Renaissance, centered in the Harlem area of New York. This was the intervening period between the two World Wars, and the movement brought with it a strong sense of pride for Americans in general. African-Americans discovered a sense of racial pride and looked to their surroundings and history for inspiration. The Civil Rights movement was another turning period, leaving a powerful impression on black authors of 1960s such as W E B Dubois, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Alex Haley, and Richard Wright; female African-American authors including Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and Gloria Naylor expanded the theme with black protagonists. Topics like slavery, racial discrimination, evangelism, black ethos and roots inspired future generations of authors.
Black authors are now topping best-seller lists simply by moving beyond categorization of style and substance. Another reason for growing popularity of Black authors is the support of Oprah Winfrey and other well-wishers, on-line media campaigns, blogs, web pages, author readings, literary works, critiques, and essays. The change is visible, and Black voices are being heard and noticed, especially E. Lynn Harris who is unafraid to dabble in taboo topics of black gay fiction. A new generation of young writers, still in their thirties, such as Junot Diaz (Drown), Edwidge Danticat (Krik! Krak!, The Farming of Bones) and Patricia Powell (The Pagoda), are intent on leaving their imprints with historical novels and ingenuous images of race and cultural identity.
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