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Introduction

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Abstract

In African-American History, Thomas C. Holt states that, although the study of black American history was initiated and developed by African American intellectuals and activists, it was Gunnar Myrdal’s American Dilemma that “introduced black history to most white Americans.”1Among the general acceptance with which Myrdal’s sociological study of black America was received, there were, as Holt points out, some voices of dissent. Among Myrdal’s critics was Ralph Ellison who reviewed American Dilemma in 1944, the year of its publication. Ellison’s main objection to Myrdal’s work was his assertion that “the Negro’s entire life and, consequently, also his opinions on the Negro problem are, in the main, to be considered as secondary reactions to more primary pressures from the side of the white dominant majority.”2 Ellison rejects Myrdal’s view of African American culture as simply reactive and points to a sense of African American culture with roots in the specific experience of people of African descent in the New World and exposes Myrdal’s one-dimensional argument. For Ellison, this is a culture that evolved not merely because of but in spite of the racism that African Americans faced “embod[ing] a rejection” of the dominant culture and, thus, holding values and traditions distinct from the hegemonic other. Thus Ellison rebuffs the idea that white culture is a “higher culture,” calling attention to the African American contribution to the United States: “In Negro culture there is much of value for America as a whole.”3

Keywords

Literary Tradition African American Culture African American History Oral Testimony Historical Fiction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Thomas C. Holt, African-American History (Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1997), 1.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gunnar Myrdal as quoted by Ralph Ellison, “An American Dilemma: A Review,” in Shadow and Act (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 315.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist (London: Wordsworth Classics, 1992), 253.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    Ellison, “Some Questions and Some Answers,” in Shadow and Act (New York: Vintage Books, 1972), 263.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration (New York: Kodansha, 1995), 4.Google Scholar
  6. 16.
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  8. 18.
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    Charlotte Goodman, “From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Vyry’s Kitchen: The Black Female Folk Tradition in Margaret Walker’s Jubilee,” in Tradition and the Talents of Women, ed. Florence Howe (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991), 336.Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Barbara Christian, “‘Somebody Forgot to Tell Somebody Something’: African-American Women’s Historical Novels,” in Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance, ed. Joanne M. Braxton and Andrée Nicola McLaughlin (London: Serpent’s Tail, 1990), 334.Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Minrose C. Gwin, “Jubilee: The Black Woman’s Celebration of Human Community,” in Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition, ed. Mar-jorie Pryse and Hortense J Spillers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 138.Google Scholar
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© Ana Nunes 2011

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