What Are Characteristics of African American Literature?

by Mirika C on November 19, 2011


The characteristics of African American literature can be endless, however, there are some main features that can generally identify African American stories across the board:

  • Stories are based on real life and family with a HISTORICAL relevance, above any other culture, pertaining to African Americans
  • Stories are taken from the point of view of the majority African Americans;how most African Americans tell their truth
  • Stories based of black history
  • Stories with a musical message of gospel, rhythm and blues, again originating or founded upon the roots of African Americans
  • Stories of historical legends and myths along with ties to Africa, making it an African and African American story
  • Stories of slavery in America and racism, which are more an AMERICAN story, but many times is placed in African American history when it is obviously Caucasian American history as well being that slave owners created slavery in America and defined the social status via racism through government laws and policies.
  • Stories of freedom
  • Urban stories and black romance, which can be read outside of the classification of African American literature.  Basically, these type stories are what I call the hype factor in a culture.  Urban stories are the hype, but not necessarily the truth, thus, most are FICTION – not to be confused with real day to day people.

The above are very basic elements that identify African American literature as most people are accustomed to reading one or more of these characteristics in African American novels at any point.  This doesn’t, however, define the African American author who also writes beyond these characteristics from children’s books, how to books, self help books and more.

Also, due to the overt factor of a person’s skin color, almost anytime a book is written and the author is seen as being African, African American or of color, no matter what the book is about, many tend to “label” it an African American book instead of a book…even if the book is a fiction story about white people or any other race, thing, or particular event.  For some reason, many tend to want to segregate stories no matter what, especially if the author is African American.

The above bulleted characteristics though are some of the main themes that one could look for if wanting a generalized feel for stories of African Americans.  Just remember that it isn’t limited to those things up top.


Like this article?  Show your support by reading a book by Mirika Mayo Cornelius.  Simply click on the tabs at the top of the page that read Fiction Drama, Fiction Romance, Horror/Thrill, Urban Fiction to browse through the books and buy.

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