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Multicultural Literature of the United States: African American Writers

This guide contains tips and strategies for locating biographical and critical information on American writers grouped by ethnicity (e.g., African-American, Jewish-American, etc.), as well a bibliography of resources, both in print and online.

Edwidge Danticat


Edwidge Danticat

Reference Sources for African-American Writers

Volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, as follows. All are in Uris and Africana Reference, and text is available online via the Literature Resource Center.

  • Afro American Fiction Writers After 1955 (DLB v 33, 1984)
  • Afro American Poets Since 1955 (DLB v 41, 1985)
  • Afro American Writers After 1955 Dramatists and Prose Writers (DLB v 38, 1985)
  • Afro American Writers Before the Harlem Renaissance (DLB v 50, 1986)
  • Afro American Writers From the Harlem Renaissance to 1940 (DLB v 51, 1987)
  • Afro American Writers, 1940 1955 (DLB v 76, 1988)

  • African American Authors, 1745-1945: a Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Nelson, Emmanuel S., ed. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2000. Print edition: Olin Ref PS153 N5 A32x 2000
    Intended "to offer reliable, thorough, and up-to-date biographical, critical, and bibliographical information" on major African-American authors from the 18th to the mid-20th century. Each signed article contains a biography of the writer, an overview of major works and themes, and a consideration of the writer's critical reception. Both primary and secondary bibliographies are provided.

  • African American Writers. Smith, Valerie, ed. New York : Charles Scribner's Sons, c2001. 2 vols. (Olin Ref PS153 N5 A23 2001 +; also Africana Ref PS153 N5 A231 2001)
    This revision of the 1991 edition provides an introduction to African American writers who have made a significant contribution to American and world letters. The articles, alphabetically arranged and written by noted scholars in the field, contain a biographical overview, a survey of the writer's principal works, and a critical assessement. Primary and secondary bibliographies are included. Volume one contains a chronology of significant events. A few topical articles (on the Black Arts Movement, Slave Narratives, and Spiritual Autobiography are also provided.

  • Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760-1975: a Guide to Information Sources. William P. French, et al. Detroit: Gale, 1979. (Uris Ref Z 1229 N39 A25; also Olin, Africana)
    Really two volumes in one: section one is entitled Afro-American Poetry, 1760-1975 and section two is Afro-American Drama, 1850-1975. Both sections are divided into two parts: 1) General Studies, which contains reference works, critical studies, and anthologies or collections; 2) Individual Authors, which lists an author's books of poetry as well as biographical and critical studies. There are author, title and subject indexes at the end of this volume.

  • The Afro-American Short Story: A Comprehensive, Annotated Index with Selected Commentaries. Westport: Greenwood, 1986.(Africana Ref Z 1229 N39 Y21)
    Lists over 850 short stories found in collections and anthologies which were published between 1950 and 1982. This source is organized into four sections which include a list of stories in chronological order, separate author and title indexes, and a section of commentary and criticism. A brief descriptive annotation for each story is included in the author index (not the title index). The section of commentary and criticism is selective and analyzes most, but not all, 850 short stories.

  • A Bibliographical Guide to African-American Women Writers.Jordan, Casper LeRoy, comp. Westport: Greenwood, 1993. (Olin Ref Z 1229 N39 J82; also Africana Ref)
    Lists both primary and secondary sources for African-American women writers from the 1700's to the 1991. Genres represented include poetry, memoirs, biographies, criticism, essays, short fiction, novels, diaries, and journals. Includes listings of relevant anthologies and general works on African-American literature.

  • Black American Women Novelists. An Annotated Bibliography. by Craig Werner. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 1989. (Olin Ref Z 1361 N39 W49)
    Provides an extensive, fully annotated list of books and articles pertaining to the study of African-American women novelists in general, an alphabetically arranged listing for individual authors, focusing on both biographical and critical resources, including scholarly articles as well as substantive book reviews in the mass media.

  • Black Drama, 1850 to Present.  Alexander Street Press, 2001 -.
    "This edition of Black Drama contains 908 plays by 171 playwrights, together with detailed, fielded information on related productions, theaters, production companies, and more. When complete, the collection will include more than 1,200 plays, of which some 20% have never been published before. The database also includes selected playbills, production photographs, and other ephemera related to the plays"--Homepage, viewed June 19, 2003.

  • The Columbia Granger's Index to African-American Poetry, edited by Nicholas Frankovich and David Larzelere. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. (Olin Ref Z1229.N39 C65x 1999)
    Title, first line and last line index to poems published by African American poets that appear in 70 anthologies and single-author collections. Includes both author and subject indexes.

  • Peterson, Bernard L. Contemporary Black American Playwrights and their Plays : a Biographical Directory and Dramatic Index. New York : Greenwood Press, c1988. (Olin Ref PS153 N5 P48; also Uris Ref Z1229 N39 P48 and Africana Ref PS153 N5 P48)
    This biographical dictionary contains information on over 700 contemporary black American playwrights, as well as screenwriters, radio and television scriptwriters, musical theater collaborators, and others connected with the creation of thetrical and dramatic works, written, produced, and/or published between 1950 and 1988. Entries are arranged alphabetically by playwright. A typical entry includes a biographical sketch and an annotated list of the playwright's dramatic work. Includes bibliography and index.

  • The Handbook of African American Literature by Hazel Arnett Ervin. Gainesville : University Press of Florida, c2004. Africana Ref PS153.N5 E78 2004 & Olin Ref PS153.N5 E78 2004
    "An A to Z compilation of 415 literary terms, ages, movements, periods, and cultural sources, all cross-referenced. Terms include techniques, genres, themes, forms, well-known phrases, modes of discourse, theoretical concepts, and diction from music and linguistics. Definitions provide substantive discussion and cite specific examples from the works of major critics and major and minor writers from the 1700s to the present. Up-to-date and relevant, the guide includes information from the colonial and reconstruction periods to the postmodern era and from cultural sources ranging from folk legends to hip-hop music...The book also lists awards and honors given to African American authors." - Publisher