Living Our Stories, Telling Our Truths: Autobiography and the Making of the African-American Intellectual Tradition

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In Living Our Stories, Telling Our Truths V. P. Franklin reinterprets the lives and thought of twelve major black American writers and political leaders - including Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Adam Clayton Powell, as well as now lesser known but equally crucial figures, among them Alexander Crummell, who declared black Americans a "chosen people" of the Lord; James Weldon Johnson, a key member of the Harlem Renaissance; Harry ...
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Overview

In Living Our Stories, Telling Our Truths V. P. Franklin reinterprets the lives and thought of twelve major black American writers and political leaders - including Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Adam Clayton Powell, as well as now lesser known but equally crucial figures, among them Alexander Crummell, who declared black Americans a "chosen people" of the Lord; James Weldon Johnson, a key member of the Harlem Renaissance; Harry Haywood, a Communist Party member who forced the party to recognize the revolutionary potential of the black working class; and reformer, journalist, and women's rights advocate Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the most famous black American woman of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. V. P. Franklin shows that autobiography occupies the central position in the African-American literary and intellectual tradition because "oftentimes personal truth was stranger than fiction." Whether they believed that African Americans were destined to "redeem the soul of America," in the words of James Baldwin, or that black people in the United States must be liberated "by any means necessary," the men and women whose life stories V. P. Franklin retells all spoke out for self-determination and independent black leadership. The struggle for freedom has been at the core of the collective experience of African Americans in the United States, and autobiographies have provided personal accounts of what freedom meant and how it could be achieved. In the century-and-a-half between the publication of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, in 1845, and that of Lorene Cary's Black Ice and Brent Staples's Parallel Time: Growing Up in Black and White in this decade, African Americans have used their personal experiences as a mirror to reflect the larger social and political context of black America. In bearing witness to the injustices they endure
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``The autobiography has been the most important literary genre in the African-American intellectual tradition,'' declares Franklin, who teaches history and political science at Drexel University. His treatment of works by 12 mostly prominent authors emphasizes historical importance over literary analysis. He offers contextual summaries of the work and roles of people like reformer Ida B. Wells-Barnett, who fought lynching, novelist James Weldon Johnson, who emphasized the worth of black folk traditions and novelist James Baldwin, whose confessional works presaged a new crop of intimate memoirs in the 1960s and '70s. Two chapters offer useful comparisons of novelists Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston, and poets Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka. Franklin concludes, curiously, with a chapter on Adam Clayton Powell, whose 1941 election to Congress represented ``an alternative model for black political activity.'' Not only is that model in question, but numerous important autobiographies have been published since Powell's 1971 Adam by Adam. Author tour. (Feb.)
Library Journal
In ten profoundly provocative essays, historian Franklin examines the intellectual legacy of the autobiographies of 12 preeminent African Americans, from Alexander Crummell and Ida Wells Barnett to James Baldwin and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Revealing the writers' shifting ideological preoccupations, Franklin deftly probes the shape and substance of what he deems the most important literary genre in the African American intellectual tradition. His masterful exegesis adds to the understanding of the black heritage he offered in Black Self-Determination: A Cultural History of the Faith of the Fathers (L. Hill, 1984). It also provides an alluring framework for appreciating more fully such work on the genre as Bearing Witness: Selections from African American Autobiography in the Twentieth Century (Pantheon, 1991). Highly recommended for collections on black culture, literature, and history.-Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y.
From Barnes & Noble
The making ofthe African-American intellectual tradition as expressed by major writers & thinkers over the last 150 years. Includes Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Adam Clayton Powell, & others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689121920
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 2/28/1995
  • Pages: 464

Table of Contents

Preface 9
Introduction 11
1 Alexander Crummell: Defining Matters of Principle 21
2 Ida Wells-Barnett: To Tell the Truth Freely 59
3 James-Weldon Johnson: The Creative Genius of the Negro 95
4 Harry Haywood: In Defense of the Black Working Class 139
5 Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston: Conflicting Blueprints for Black Writing 185
6 The Autobiographical Legacy of W. E. B. Du Bois 223
7 The Confessions of James Baldwin 275
8 Malcolm X and the Resurrection of the Dead 319
9 Gwendolyn Brooks and Amiri Baraka: The Creation of a Black Literary Aesthetic 347
10 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.: The Need for Independent Black Leadership 391
Notes 418
Index 455
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