Death and the African American Literature

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Racism in the United States is without a doubt one of the most gruesome forms of inhumanity. This disease generated the dehumanization of slavery which has taken the lives of innumerable innocent African Americans. It has also robbed a whole race of their identities, heritages and cultures. Throughout the myriad of novels, excerpts, poems, videos and other forms of literature that we encountered in this course, it is unmistakable that the African American literary tradition demonstrates that the past (the unbelievable sufferings of African Americans) can never be arrested and forgotten. The many that have perished at the feet of racism are the history of African Americans themselves, and the African American literary tradition makes it a priority to be true to that history. So why is death a theme in the African American literary tradition? Death, in itself, is a universal phenomenon, with no exception; it touches the lives of all persons regardless of their social status or ethnic heritage. Likewise, death is a universal theme in literature, but its relevance in the African American literature is particularly poignant because of the loyalty that African American writers have to their history. With the help of works of Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave , Negro spirituals (“I feel like my time ain’t long” and “Many Thousands Gone”) and Abel Meeropol’s “Strange Fruits,” modern African American literature like late sermons from Martine Luther King Jr. and Elizabeth Alexander’s “ Praise Song for the Day” has utilize the universal theme of death to symbolize the racial injustice that African Americans experience in the own country and they also utilize such a strong theme to declare ... ... middle of paper ... ...rt-breaking result of racism in the United States and the subject has made its way into the African American literary tradition. Slave narratives such as Douglass’ Narratives and Negro spirituals such as “I feel like my time ain’t long” and “Many Thousands Gone” have made African American literature true to the history that has been recorded. A present day controversial subject in our society is why can’t people, especially African Americans, forget about slavery and the adversity against African Americans? It is believed that African Americans have progressed and made advancement since that time; however, with writers like Elizabeth Alexander, the past just can’t go away forgotten; especially a past that was as gruesome as that of African Americans. Every single bloody lash, death and groaning happened and as she said we have to “say it plain” that it happened.

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