Is It the End of the Black American Narrative?
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I was recently referred to this 2008 essay by Pulitzer Prize author Charles Johnson.


The End of the Black American Narrative

A new century calls for new stories grounded in the present, leaving behind the painful history of slavery and its consequences.


This essay left me with so many feelings, not good feelings. I thought of the forum most of us chimed in a few months ago referring to can't black folks be happy? But this essay, while I respect Charles Johnson and his work, left me saddened.

What are your feelings?

  • ...and I do include the non-fiction pieces. Just take Obama's presidency, and this one writer I just read who cited how he traveled to Washington to 'Witness History', despite following up his travels to capture the moment by including a disparaging remark because he didn't understand what the phrase meant (to 2008).

  • This was a lot of article, though I believe I can keep my thoughts relatively concise... holding to the belief that literature is influenced by the soul of the writer, not the other way around. It's not 'something' to toy around with and direct. That's the long and the short of it.

    That said, I'm with you Dera, and don't dare shred a thing; though I'm sure you won't. While I too empathize with where the article was going, of all the lit I've come across, the most powerful are those written by writers writing on matters that affect/ed them deeply. The thought of wanting to alter (or redefine?) this process is offensive, and not necessarily only to writers, but to the arts, to the breadth of what my experience with literature is.

    Now what can be shaped, and that's social programs, our education systems, churches, our leadership, parenting, and entities of that nature. Those are the constituents that have the power to influence people (for the better is the hope), so that then writers will be inspired to write on those matters which they feel, hear, and see. From my view, it does not work the other way around. 


    In Answer to Charles Johnson


    I find this interesting considering Johnson won the National Book Award for The Middle Passage, which was the definitive book about transport of Africans to America and slavery. I highly respect him and he makes some excellence points and they should be noted, however, I don't belief in throwing out the baby with the bath water. This essay leaves me saddened, saddened for all the stories that will not be told because some great writers will decide this is true.


    I don't entirely disagree with him but I do not agree that the stories of the past-- slavery and the civil rights era have lost their place or that they should if not eliminated, but not so prominent in literature. On the contrary, as one who studies genealogy and history and who believes in one knowing their history (I always hear the voice of my  sisterfriend, Cynthia playing in my head when someone brings up a topic about race that is misconstrued- "People need to know their history" and find myself echoing this. On that note, if I am reading it right Johnson contradicts himself, when he says there is a false belief that blacks have it better that racism ceases to exist because of President Obama and the success of Oprah Winfrey, yet notes there is still a disconnect about race in this country.


     I still say the stories of the past need to be told; they have not lost their value, or their appeal. Yes, it makes a lot of us uncomfortable and weary, black, white, red, yellow and purple. If I felt there is not value in these kinds of stories, I would not spend all the time, sweat and hard work I have put into my novel-in-progress. If I did not feel this story was worth telling, a story set in the south in the 50s and 60s, culminating in the momentous year, 1963; if I felt that readers would not be uplifted or feel pride and the hope in their ancestors; that there are millions of young black Americans who do not know these stories because it is thought to be "passé"; if I thought the pain and humiliation of slavery and Jim Crow  and did not believe these things should never be forgotten, and in fact be kept before us and to learn from; if I thought the great migration of which Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston write so eloquently about and  of recent Isabel Wilkerson has expounded upon and brought to the attention of the world was just a lark and a vehicle in which to base a career on the hardships of black folk, then I might as well just stop now, throw out years of research and writing, revisions,  and drafts so that this story will not be told in honor of my ancestors. Just shred every bit of paper and delete every file because it is time to tell a new story. But the fact remains, the history of black people including the horrifying effects of slavery, the grief and devastation of Jim Crow and the triumphs, strides and successes of civil rights and equality are the stories of which this country is built.