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African-American Literature Does Exist

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African-American Literature Does Exist

In the article, Does African-American Literature Exist?, Kenneth W. Warren argues that African-American literature has ceased to exist. In Warren's belief, African-American literature, as well as the Jim Crow era, is now history. Kenneth Warren is misguided in his belief that African-American literature no longer exists; as it most certainly does.

Warren's ideology is flawed in a few ways. Firstly, to view African-American literature as history is simply shortsighted. In his essay, Warren stated, "African-American literature was a Jim Crow phenomenon, which is to say, speaking from the standpoint of a post-Jim Crow world, African American literature is history." It is in this idea that Warren's theory may be questioned. African-American literature, by definition, is literature directly associated with a race, not a time period. To say that African-American literature is history is also saying that the African-American author is history. While Warren may believe this to be true, individuals such as Helena Andrews and even Jay-Z may disagree.

If Warren's theory, that African-American literature is history, were true, there would certainly not be prominent African-American authors as of late. Walter Dean Myers, winner of four Coretta Scott King Awards, lived through the Jim Crow era and has continued to write successful novels for over thirty years. Myers' novels are often written about African-American characters in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. If Myers novels are written about African-American characters and intended for an African-American audience, why should this literature be denied as African-American? According to Warren, this literature is not African-American for two reasons: First, because the work was created post-Jim Crow. Second, because the work is not written for the same reasons as during Jim Crow. Simply because a novel was not written solely to gain African-American equality does not make it any less African-American.

The problem with Warren's thought process is that he fails to account for change. He refuses to acknowledge that African-American literature may have just changed in style and appearance. In his essay, Kenneth Warren, as quoted before, believes that African-American literature is a direct result of the Jim Crow laws of an era. Later he says, "It was in response to the rising tide of disfranchisement and segregation that calls for black Americans to produce a distinct literature began to proliferate and to shape black literary practice." To say that African-American literature only existed because they were pressured to write is failing to give credit where credit is due. If African-American writers only existed because of pressure, why are African-American authors continuing to pen books? It could be said, contrary to Warren's belief, that this

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