In 1776 it was stated that our country was based upon one simple truth, "That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Though stated with a poetic justice, this statement did not hold true for all U.S. citizens. Many citizens were held in captivity, versus freedom, unable to pursue those "inalienable rights." After two hundred years of inequality, Martin Luther King, Jr., would provide one of the most vocal positions regarding the lack of equal rights owed to African Americans. In his 1969 Lincoln Memorial speech, King would historically state, "I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream, that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed - we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
Like most Americans, African Americans have developed several variations of the American Dream. Many African Americans find that their dream differs from the traditional American dream in that there is no immediate success. Sometimes it consists of equality via liberty and/or literacy, while at other a simple desire to know self through historical connection. Dreams of this nature have been a major underlying theme of African-American literature since the 1800's.
In the mid-1800's Frederick Douglass began sharing his story of slavery with what was then considered the "North." Douglass realized his dream early in life and worked to achieve as much of the dream as possible. As he explains in The Classic Sla...
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...e up the great African-American literary tradition describing the quest for the dream of equality, and in that, exercising their inalienable rights.
Brent, Linda. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Group, 1987.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Group, 1987.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. Introduction. The Classic Slave Narratives. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Penguin Group, 1987. ix-xviii.
Graff, Harvey J. The Literacy Myth: Literacy and Social Structure in the Nineteenth-Century City. New York: Academic Press, 1979.
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. New York: The Penguin Group, 1977.
Sapphire. Push. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1996.
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