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How do we think about African-American literature?
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African-American literature should be about free expression

African-American literature may only gain fame when approved by popular (that is, White) readership. But Black artists should create art drawn from their unique, true experiences.
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Writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Langston Hughes believed that Black literature should not be tied to a political agenda.[1] Instead of being tied to propaganda, Black literature should be free to explore and express true experiences, unhindered by the stereotypes and gatekeeping determined by White readers.

The Argument

Writing for propaganda restricts the Black artist from writing freely about the Black experience. Instead of writing about Black people for Black people, propaganda literature (despite its intention of writing for racial equality) is writing about Black people for White people. [2] Having social mobility (or political propaganda) as the main motivator for being a writer means that they are bound to writing for and towards people who need to be convinced that Black lives are worthy. Because of the U.S.'s systemic racism, Black American artists have had to "prove" their worth through literature and art. However, Black art should not be tied to the necessity of "proving" themselves. African-American literature—by its own merit of being created by a human with a distinct, important cultural heritage—stands alone and is fiercely individual in the face of a White audience who may try to flatten the representation of Black lives or deny African-American literary worth.

Counter arguments

Art is not simply "for art's sake" or for "freedom of expression." Writing and art are inherently tied to politics. Writing seeks to change people's minds or bring about new perspectives. All art inherently has a message,[3] and using art to merely pursue aesthetics and form is not worthwhile.



[P1] The purpose of art is free expression. [P2] Black artists have unique traditions and backgrounds to draw from, which makes their art meaningful (even if not intentionally political).

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Wednesday, 26 Aug 2020 at 23:52 UTC