Elizabeth McHenry talks about the moment in the history of African American literature in the decade following the 1896 legalization of segregation, the subject of her new book To Make Negro Literature: Writing, Literary Practice, and African American Authorship. She redirects attention to overlooked archives of unpublished and unsuccessful literary production and thereby offers a radically alternative genealogy of Black literature.
Elizabeth McHenry is Professor of English at New York University and author of Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies, also published by Duke University Press. The book relies on a number of theoretical and disciplinary lenses to understand the epistemological and social conditions of print culture and literary community for African Americans between 1830 and 1940. It expands our definition of literacy and urges of us think about literature as broadly as it was conceived of in the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries.
Image: The Louisville Western Branch Library in Louisville, Kentucky
Music used in promotional material: ‘Afro-American Symphony: II – Adagio’, William Grants Still