African American literature has become an inevitable part of American Literature and culture. It is only with the significant representation of African American literature that American society stands to be cleansed from the problem of racial discrimination. The Antebellum Period (1800-1865) is the era of the Underground Railroad and time of desire for freedom, justice, and equality. Before understanding the origin of African American literature, it is important to know the main issues of that particular period (Derouiche 12). The issue of race and tensions of color pushed African Americans to use writing to establish a place for themselves in the community. Segregation was highly contributed by English with ideas of inferiority and distinction through drawing on preconceptions rooted in images of blackness and physical differences being developed.
During the antebellum period, abolitionist newspapers appeared which gave a chance to the slaves to tell their slaves. At this era, feminist writers were given the chance to participate in the fight against slavery with black men writers. Literature was mixed between written and oral tradition in African American literature which represented the slave's desire for freedom. Writers of the antebellum period focused on writing poems on slaves with narrations that showed injustice and bondage of slavery (Derouiche 16). For example, writers such Frederick Douglass of this particular era focused on narratives that described the denigration of slavery representing writers of this particular who told poems and sung songs, and writings that explore the social, political, and moral implications of slavery. Literature at the antebellum period acted as an instrument for the abolition of slavery. Writers tried to explore the theme of slavery and freedom through writing abolitionists' poems and slavery narration which show injustice and bondage of slavery. They believed in the influence of songs in literature where writers such as Douglass showed the importance of oral tradition in African American literature (Derouiche 16). To emphasize more on the theme of slavery and freedom, a variety of African American literature of the antebellum period concerned speeches, plays, novels, and poems.
The narrators were mainly the African slaves themselves and the writing was mainly on their stories and lives during slavery. They focused on narratives as a journey towards freedom and from the restrictions brought about by slavery. In the narratives, slavery was labeled with cruel images that the reader could find hard to comprehend. Women were also not left in making significant contributions to the literature of antebellum (Derouiche 16). Various writers have tried to explore the theme of slavery and freedom in works that were written during the antebellum period and used slave narrative in its numerous embodiments to help redesign their understanding and not just of slavery in the United States but of American culture and American literature more broadly. Many slave narratives of the antebellum made sentimental appeals to the readers and other writers today are using it as a connection with emotional ties and moral sense. Literature has presented a way for Africans in America to demonstrate their humankind and prove a capacity for imaginative creation and artistic thoughts. It was a means for African-Americans to resist slavery and institutional slavery. Through the exploration of the theme of slavery and freedom, literature has been regularly acknowledged African-Americans struggles that are related to racism, African heritage, slavery, Euro-American influence, and freedom. Everything that was written at this period was geared towards slavery and freedom.
Derouiche, Aicha. The Development of African American Literature. Diss. 2016. http://dspace.univ-tlemcen.dz/bitstream/112/9007/1/aicha-derouiche.pdf
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