Review by Choice Review

The time frame the author covers makes this work distinctive. Bruce (history, Univ. of California, Irvine) traces the origins of African American literature to a period antedating the first known publications by African Americans, an era characterized by fixed British notions of black inferiority and economics that later culminated in the slave codes. The author also considers the many ambiguities within these modes of exclusion that allowed for some interracial marriage and legally free blacks during the 17th century. Bruce divides his discussion into such chapters as "The Age of Revolution," "Literary Identity," "The Era of Colonization," "Abolition," and "Emancipation." He discusses distinctive literary personalities--explaining their backgrounds, socioeconomic restraints, and triumphs--and significant works--their unique purposes, themes, forms, and literary influences. The chapter on literary identity discusses the various literary forms black writers of the period used and the problems of identity the writers faced. Much of this material is covered in other works of history and literature, but this compilation gathers it in one book and will be useful to undergraduates beginning their study of the early African American tradition in literature. B. Taylor-Thompson Texas Southern University

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