Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

InYoung and Black in America, Rae Pace Alexander has gathered personal written accounts of eight African Americans whose accomplishments during their youth affected their futures. Beginning with Frederick Douglass, who used his newspaper to proclaim the abolition of slavery, to David Parks, who suffered racial discrimination in the armed services, they all recount an experience that forever changed their lives. Alexander documents historical events through the eyes of young Americans during the Civil War, the abolition movement, segregation in the military, the 1960’s sit-in demonstrations, and school integration. Other biographies, such as those of Richard Wright, Jimmy Brown, and Harry Edwards, are presented using their writ-ing or athletic ability to depict the impact and the influence of racial discrimination on young African Americans.

The eight chapters in Alexander’s book are divided into two parts. The first section presents a brief biographical account of the person and is accompanied by a full-page photograph. This first section also offers historical data that provide a focused background to the experiences involving racial discrimination and injustice that will be described. The second part of each chapter relates a dramatic episode that each person had published previously in another source.

Alexander includes biographical sketches that place the person in sometimes life-threatening events that demonstrate how these young people garnered enough courage to stand up for the rights of African Americans. A preface is not included; therefore, the author’s intention for compiling this collective biography cannot be determined with certainty. Nevertheless, the choice of young African Americans as a subject, most of whom relate experiences from the 1960’s, would seem to indicate a deep concern by the author to provide inspirational materials for young adults who are struggling with justice for all Americans. For further autobiographical information, a bibliography is included, citing the original works from which Alexander gathered these episodes.