Black Atlantic Literature -- an Introduction
Spring 2003
Lehigh University
Prof. Amardeep Singh


1. Writers Everyone Should Know

2. Writers in the course: Morrison | Kincaid | Wideman | Danticat | Rhys | Phillips
McKay | Hughes | Garvey | Cullen | Hurston | DuBois | Walrond


"My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
I turned aside and bowed my head and wept."
--Claude McKay, "The Tropics in New York"

"In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can't take positions that are closed."
-- Toni Morrison, interview

"The Mississippi, sister of the Ganges,
Main artery of earth in the western world,
Is waiting to become
In the spirit of America, a scared river.
Whoever lifts the Mississippi
Lifts himself and all America;
Whoever lifts himself
Makes that great brown river smile.
The blood of earth and the blood of man
Course swifter and rejoice when we spiritualize."
-Jean Toomer, "The Blue Meridian"

Africa? A book one thumbs
Listlessly, till slumber comes.
--Countee Cullen, "Heritage"


Afro-Caribbean/Black British Writers and Intellectuals Everyone Should Know About
(A couple of relevant African American writers thrown in for good measure)
These links will continue to grow as the term progresses. If anyone has links to add to the below, please email me. Thanks!

Toni Morrison (US)
Tar Baby

George Lamming (Jamaica)
Aime Cesaire (Martinique)
Frantz Fanon (Martinique)

Caryl Phillips (St. Kitts/United Kingdom)
Crossing the River

C.L.R. James (Trinidad)
Derek Walcott (St. Lucia/US)
Edward Kamau Brathwaite

Harlem Renaissance
Claude McKay (Jamaica/US)
Marcus Garvey (Jamaica/US/Africa)
Paul Robeson
Zora Neale Hurston

Edwidge Danticat (Haiti/US)
Krik? Krak!

Dany Laferriere (Haiti/Canada)

Jamaica Kincaid (Antigua/US)
A Small Place

Patrick Chamoiseau (Haiti)
Edouard Glissant (Martinique)
Michelle Cliff (Jamaica/US)

John Edgar Wideman (US)

The Cattle Killing


Toni Morrison

"In order to be as free as I possibly can, in my own imagination, I can't take positions that are closed." -- Toni Morrison


Morrison's basic Biography on Encarta

Toni Morrison's Nobel Prize in Literature (1993)
Morrison's Prize Lecture for the Swedish Academy (December 1993)
(Read this -- it's brilliant) interview

An interesting criticism of Morrison's defense of Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal/ Impeachment era:


Tar Baby

Toni Morrison: "Tar Baby is also a name, like "nigger," that white people call black children, black girls, as I recall…. At one time, a tar pit was a holy place, at least an important place, because tar was used to build things…. It held together things like Moses' little boat and the pyramids. For me, the tar baby came to mean the black woman who can hold things together." An interpretation of Tar Baby by a student named Anniina Jokinen.. This is a strong, competent reading, but there are things one might disagree with. Note the excellent web bibliography for this essay.


Edwidge Danticat

A critical view of her most recent book, The Farming of Bones


Caryl Phillips

Official Caryl Phillips homepage

Interview with Phillips in The Caribbean Writer

This is a GREAT interview! Very insightful… Phillips talks about his writing process, his background, and his views on what's happening in the Caribbean today.

Phillips's experience of 9/11 (from New York City),1300,551626,00.html

Phillips on the Trinidadian writer V.S. Naipaul

Phillips interviews John Edgar Wideman
(on MP3!). From BOMB Magazine (UK), 2001

Jamaica Kincaid

From A Small Place: "Antigua is a small place, a small island...It was settled by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Not too long after, it was settled by human rubbish from Europe, who used enslaved by noble and exalted human beings from satisfy their desire for wealth and power, to feel better about their own miserable existence, so that they could be less lonely and empty- a European disease"

Biography and summary from the Emory U. Postcolonial Literature Web Page Interview with Kincaid from 1996

A little too much talk about The New Yorker, but interesting insofar as it gives us a glimpse of Kincaid's early experiences in New York City, and the unfolding of her career. Review of My Garden (Book) (1999) review of My Brother (1997)


Aime Cesaire

Hedy Kalikoff. "Gender, Genre and Geography in Aime Cesaire’s Cahier…" Callaloo, 1995.

Nick Nesbitt: "Antinomies of Double Consciousness in Aime Cesaire’s Cahier…"

Melsan Annick. Interview with Aime Cesaire. "The Liberating Power of Words."
Unesco Courier, 1997.

Nick Nesbitt. "Negritude." African Writers Index


John Edgar Wideman


Jean Rhys