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Classic African American Fiction

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Beloved by Toni Morrison
The book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, follows the story of Sethe and her daughter Denver as they try to rebuild their lives after having escaped from slavery. The house they live in is haunted by the ghost of Sethe's murdered daughter.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
This semi-autobiographical novel examines the role of the Christian Church in the lives of African-Americans, both as a source of repression and moral hypocrisy and as a source of inspiration and community.
Jubilee by Margaret Walker
Vyry, the child of a white plantation owner and his black mistress, witnesses to the South's pre-war brutality, its wartime ruin and the subsequent promise of Reconstruction.
Native Son by Richard Wright
The protagonist of Wright's groundbreaking novel is hardly a hero, but that's the point. Bigger Thomas is a young African-American man in 1930s America who will never get a chance to be a hero. Thomas finds desperation, confusion, and fear behind every corner and reacts accordingly in a tragic series of events that continue to spark outrage and conversation decades after publication.
Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes
Young Sandy learns about the sad and the beautiful realities of black life in a small Kansas town during the 1910s.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
This novel covers the complex lives and backgrounds of four generations of black family life in the south.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
Jane Pittman, a black woman, has lived for 110 years. She recalls her life from her days as a slave as a young girl to her witness of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and bears witness to everything that happened to black people in America in between.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused and raped by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate. The story continues over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. The rage she feels, combined with an example of love and independence provided by her close friend Shug, pushes her finally toward an awakening of her creative and loving self.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Janie Crawford, an attractive, confident, middle-aged black woman, returns to Eatonville, Florida, after a long absence. The black townspeople gossip about her and -speculate about where she has been and what has happened to her young husband, Tea Cake. They take her confidence as aloofness, but Janie's friend Pheoby Watson sticks up for her. Pheoby visits her to find out what has happened. Their conversation frames the novel.
Updated 10/20/2011