Amiri Baraka’s essay "The Revolutionary Tradition of Afro-American Literature,"

The radical trajectory of black American literature seems to be influenced by their prior suffering and the fact that it has been disregarded by the current meaning of American literature, according to Amiri Baraka's essay "The Revolutionary Tradition of Afro-American Literature." According to Baraka, if people want to continue using the term "American literature," they must either accept that it refers to works by white authors or interpret it to imply works by authors from all cultures. As Baraka begins his essay, he introduces the work of Bruce Franklin and makes it obvious that the representation of American literature does not represent all Americans as a whole. Baraka shows that the study of American literary works had in history excluded the works of subjugated people of America.

These words are so important because Franklin calls into attention to not only the fact that what is called American literature is the literature of particular white men, but he also points out the importance to American culture and life itself of Afro-American life and culture in this country (Baraka 311)

Baraka believes that American literature must include Afro-American culture and its exclusion in narratives is factual error and ideological distortion. In this case, the author calls for the redefinition of American history and the establishment of appropriate criteria to incorporate all American literary work. Baraka believes that the views of the oppressed population should not be excluded from teaching and criticism of American literature. As a result, the radical trajectory of black Americans is shaped by their history of slavery and its implications. It is a truth which is central to the black and entire American economic, political and social experience as a nation. All these issues are considered as the cultural basis of the American people. As a result, the story of slavery just like the general Afro-American culture is not outlying but central to American culture.

While talking about the American culture, Baraka’s essay also agrees with Lorde’s work “Poetry Is Not a Luxury?” with the core point of convergence being the fact that both authors talk about the oppression of minority individuals in the society. For instance, Baraka addresses the historical injustices of Afro-Americans while Lorde uses his poetry to discourse about women injustices. Both of these authors also use their literary works as a way of speaking up against segregation. Lorde uses the inner human voice as magic which has power, and she emphasizes that as women their voices represent who they are and what they might become. In this case, she insists that when women use their voices, they gain the capacity to break their silence against sexist ideologies and racism that has bullied them for a long time. Though Lorde seems to talk to a particular poet, she persistently refers to the group of women voices. According to Lorde, she insists;

For women, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital requirement for our survival. It fashions the superiority of the light within which we establish our expectations and ideas toward existence and transformation, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the approach we use to give a name to the anonymous so that it can be understood. The extreme prospects of our hopes and uncertainties are mended by our pens, imprinted from the rock understandings of our everyday lives (37).

Furthermore, both authors in their pieces talk about creating a personality for their people. An identity which will help their way of life incorporated into the national culture. For instance, Lorde, says that poetry is not a luxury but a way in which women can use to talk to the world about their plight. Her poetry is primarily feminism. She states that her inner voice does not allow her to modify her behavior to fit the rigid standards of writing but it makes her talk about women issues. On the other hand, Baraka insists that a lot of American literature mostly covers the story of white people. He, therefore, insists that this literature has to be altered so that it can identify the Afro black individuals.

However, there are crucial points of divergence between Lorde and Baraka concerning what will elevate the politics of black poetry to its revolutionary apex. According to Baraka, there is a need for the inclusion of both male and female, but Lorde insists the fight for women inclusion is more important because of their the existing culture that treats them as second to men. Nevertheless, I believe that Baraka’s sentiment holds a lot of weight. This is because the politics of black poetry can only be elevated to its revolutionary apex by including the literary studies of Afro-Americans because it had historically been excluded from American literature. I find Baraka’s argument compelling because the African American nation is still in oppression across all states. “They still face the struggle of revolution and the oppression of imperialism” (Baraka 322). Baraka, therefore, insists that the self-determination and liberation of African American individuals can only be achieved through revolution. And this uprising involves having a wave of African American literature that represents their culture.

Works Cited

Lorde, Audre. "Poetry is not a luxury." (1978): 36-39.

Baraka, Amiri. "Afro-American Literature & Class Struggle." Black American Literature Forum. School of Education, Indiana State University, 1980.

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