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ENGL411: African-American Literature

Unit 5: Civil Rights Era, 1940s to 1960s   After World War II, African Americans who served their country came home to a world that still did not accept them as equal.  The authors of this period struggled to make a place for themselves as Americans, seeking equality in all areas of life, yet not lose their cultural identity.  Although African American drama begins with William Wells Brown's The Escape; Or, A Leap for Freedom(1857), it came into its own in the latter half of the twentieth century with Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, and August Wilson with its focus on issues of sexism, racism, and classicism. 
 
This unit explores both political and personal movements in drama, poetry, and fiction, as issues of race, sex, and class converge in the highly charged political arenas that would determine the fate of African Americans.

Unit 5 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 12.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 5.1: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.2: 4.5 hours ☐    Subunit 5.2.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 5.2.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 5.3: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 5.4: 4.75 hours ☐    Subunit 5.4.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 5.4.2: 1.75 hours

Unit5 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Identify the political and racial issues that influenced the writings of African Americans in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. - Analyze the influence of protest writings on African American authors. - Trace the development of urban fiction. - Compare and contrast social activism in both political and religious writings.

5.1 Fiction   5.1.1 Realism   - Reading: Washington State University: Professor Donna Campbell’s “Realism in American Literature, 1860-1890” Link: Washington State University: Professor Donna Campbell’s “Realism in American Literature, 1860-1890” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire lecture to learn more about the period of Realism in literature.  This reading should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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  • Reading: University of North Carolina at Pembroke: Amy Nickell Taylor’s (ed.) Overview of African American Literature: “Section 6: Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, 1940-1960” Link: University of North Carolina at Pembroke: Amy Nickell Taylor’s (ed.) Overview of African American Literature:Section 6: Realism, Naturalism, Modernism, 1940-1960” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down the webpage to Section 6, and read this entire text on Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism.  This reading also covers the topic outlined in subunit 5.1.2 and reinforces what you learned about Modernism from Unit 4.  This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
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  • Lecture: SlideShare: Cambridge College: Cbrownell’s “Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism in African American Literature” Link: SlideShare: Cambridge College: Cbrownell’s “Realism, Naturalism, and Modernism in African American Literature” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Please view all 15 lecture slides for an overview of the important African American writers who practiced Realism and Naturalism.  This reading also covers the topic outlined in subunit 5.1.2 and reinforces what you learned about Modernism from Unit 4.  This lecture should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
     
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5.1.2 Naturalism   - Reading: Washington State University: Professor Donna Campbell’s “Naturalism in American Literature” Link: Washington State University: Professor Donna Campbell’s “Naturalism in American Literature” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read the entire lecture to learn more about
the period of Naturalism in literature.  This reading should take
approximately 15 minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use on the
webpage displayed above.

5.2 Protest Writing   5.2.1 Richard Wright's Influence as a Protest Writer   - Reading: The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: Milton Moskowitz’s "The Enduring Importance of Richard Wright" Link: The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: Milton Moskowitz’s “The Enduring Importance of Richard Wright” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article to learn about the life and works of Richard Wright, as well as his impact on African American literature.  This reading should take approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: University of Virginia’s version of Richard Wright’s "How ‘Bigger’ Was Born" Link: University of Virginia’s version of Richard Wright’s "How 'Bigger' Was Born" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire text.  Wright's Native Son (1940), with its main character Bigger was one of the most popular African American novels of the twentieth century with its dominance in the area of protest fiction.  In this selection, Wright explains the character's origins.  You should spend approximately 2 hours reading and studying this text.
     
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  • Reading: University of Pennsylvania’s version of Irving Howe’s "Black Boys and Native Sons" Link: University of Pennsylvania’s version of Irving Howe’s "Black Boys and Native Sons" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire text of Howe’s review and criticism of Wright’s Native Son.  This reading should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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5.2.2 Ralph Ellison and the Myth of Invisibility   - Reading: Northshire Bookstore: Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man: “Chapter I. Battle Royal” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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  • Lecture: Annenberg Foundation’s American Passages: A Literary Survey: “Episode 14: Becoming Visible” Link: Annenberg Foundation’s American Passages: A Literary Survey: “Episode 14: Becoming Visible” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down the webpage, and click on the “VOD” icon next to Episode 14 “Becoming Visible” to launch the video.  Please watch the video from up until about 11:07 minutes.  Viewing this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
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5.3 Poetry   5.3.1 Robert Hayden and the Personal Experience Lyric   - Reading: Poetry Foundation: Robert Hayden’s "Those Winter Sundays" (1966) Link: Poetry Foundation: Robert Hayden’s "Those Winter Sundays" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire poem; try reading the poem on the page and then reading the poem out loud.  Hayden is best known for poems about the African American experience from Civil War to Hayden's day.  His shorter poems, such as "Those Winter Sundays," are memorable examples of personal or religious experiences.  As you read, consider the theme and underlying meaning of the poem.  You should spend approximately 15 minutes reading and analyzing this poem.

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5.3.2 Gwendolyn Brooks and the Chicago Renaissance   - Reading: Northern Illinois University Libraries: James Hurt’s "Promised Land?" The Black Chicago Renaissance and after” Link: Northern Illinois University Libraries: James Hurt’s "Promised Land?" The Black Chicago Renaissance and after" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire article for an overview of the Black Chicago Renaissance.  Reading and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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  • Reading: PoemHunter.com: Gwendolyn Brooks’ "We Real Cool” and "Kitchenette Building" Links: PoemHunter.com: Gwendolyn Brooks’ "We Real Cool” (HTML) and "Kitchenette Building”(HTML)

    Instructions: Please read these two poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.  Remember that reading aloud and reading multiple times will help your understanding.  You should spend approximately 30 minutes reading and analyzing these poems.
     
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  • Reading: Modern American Poetry: Stavros, Brooks, Sims, Smith, Lindberg, Sullivan, and Spillers “On ‘We Real Cool’" Link: Modern American Poetry: Stavros, Brooks, Sims, Smith, Lindberg, Sullivan, and Spillers “On ‘We Real Cool’" (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Gwendolyn Brooks' poems moved from a universal perspective to more politically critical poems reflecting the experiences of poverty-stricken neighborhoods.  You should spend approximately 30 minutes studying this lecture.
     
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5.4 Political Voices   5.4.1 Civil Disobedience and Martin Luther King, Jr.   - Reading: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Kimberley Brownlee’s “Civil Disobedience” Link: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Kimberley Brownlee’s “Civil Disobedience” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire encyclopedia entry for a historical introduction to civil disobedience.  Use this information as context for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”  You should spend approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes on this resource.
 
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  • Reading: University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (1963) Link: University of Pennsylvania’s African Studies Center: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in which King responded to white clergymen’s claim that racial segregation should be challenged through legal channels, rather than in the streets.  King had been arrested for a nonviolent protest, thus writing the letter from a jail in Birmingham, Alabama.  You should spend approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes reading and critically analyzing this letter.
     
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5.4.2 Malcolm X and Islam   - Reading: University of Georgia: Alan Godlas’s "The Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, W.D. Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan" Link: University of Georgia: Alan Godlas’s "The Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, W.D. Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan" (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the section of text “The Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, W.D. Muhammad, and Louis Farrakhan” (which should be the sixth hyperlink on the page).  This reading should take approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Shikshantar: Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X: “Chapter Eleven” Link: Shikshantar: Malcolm X’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X: “Chapter Eleven” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read Chapter 11 in its entirety.  Religion plays a large part in how Malcolm X (a Muslim) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Baptist minister) approached their activism.  Malcolm X has been described as waving the sword of change, while King extended the olive branch of peace.  You should dedicate approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes to reading and studying this resource.
     
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