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African-American Literature   Tags: african-american writers, black literature  

This guide serves as a brief introduction to the major resources found in the library in the area of African-American Literature.
Last Updated: Aug 31, 2015 URL: Print Guide Email Alerts

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What is African-American Literature?

African-American Literature is literature written by Americans of African descent. It began with the works of such late 18th century writers as Phillis Wheatley.  Before the high point of slave narratives, African-American literature was dominated by autobiographical spiritual narratives.  African-American literature reached early high points with slave narratives of the nineteenth century.The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's was a time of flowering of literature and the arts. Writers of African-American literature have been recognized by the highest awards including the Nobel Prize to Toni Morrison.

Toni Morrison


Selected Literature Resources

REFERENCE BOOKS - (Located on the 2nd floor of the Cheek Library)

The Oxford Companion to African-American Literature

Andrews, William L.

RNEG PS153 .N5 O96 1997

The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature

Gates, Henry Louis

RNEG PS508.N3 N67 2004

 African-American Literature Beyond Race

Jarrett, Gene Andrew

RNEG PS647.A35 A346 2006

 Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance


RNEG PS153 .N5 A24 2003



E-Books on NCLive

Ebrary E-Books



Classic African-American Women's Narratives

Andrews, William L.

PS647 .A35 C56 2003

Toni Morrison's Beloved

Marks, Kathleen

PS3563.O8749 B435 2002

Colored Girl and other Stories: a complete short fiction anthology of African-American women writers in The Crisis Magazine, 1910-2010. 

Musser, Judith

PS 647 .A35 G57 2011



Poem: Woman's Work

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The can to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own.


Poem: They Went Home

They went home and told their wives,
that never once in all their lives,
had they known a girl like me,
But... They went home.

They said my house was licking clean,
no word I spoke was ever mean,
I had an air of mystery,
But... They went home.

My praises were on all men's lips,
they liked my smile, my wit, my hips,
they'd spend one night, or two or three.



This site provides essential resources for studying and researching African-American literature.  It is also a guide to teach students how to use the library's research resources for African-American literature and related areas of study. 


Remembering Dr. Angelou!

Dr. Maya Angelou,1928-2014


Dr. Angelou's Book of Essays - Letter to My Daughter


Dr. Angelou's Inaugural Poem for President Bill Clinton


Dr. Angelou's Tribute to Nelson Mandela


Poem: And Still I Rise

Subject Guide

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Poem: Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size,
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.


Dr. Angelou's Quotes

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

_Maya Angelou

"If you don't like something, change it. if you can't change it, change your attitude."

_Maya Angelou

"My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy.  That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors."

_Maya Angelou


Poem: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.


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