What are the characteristics of African American literature from the period 1865-1912. What was this periods concerns? 

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1865-1912 were big years in America's history as they pertained largely to the rights of black people.


  • 13th Amendment outlaws slavery.
  • Lincoln is assassinated.


  • Civil Rights Act passed - guarantees equal rights for whites and blacks.
  • Ku Klux Klan is found.


  • 14th Amendment - gives due process, equal protection and citizenship to anyone born in the US.


  • 15th Amendment - gives blacks the right to vote


  • Civil Rights Act of 1875 - gives black Americans equal rights in public accommodations and jury duty


  • Civil Rights Act of 1875 overturned in Supreme Court


  • Plessy vs. Ferguson - Jim Crow Laws take effect


  • NAACP is formed: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

In addition to the above, these years hold in our history the first black senators, the first black representation in government.  Many black universities opened in America in this time.  Black women's organizations began to form and grow...

But also understand that throughout these major historic events for black Americans there are several lynchings happenening every year.  The KKK is gaining power.  This is the time of the Jim Crow Laws, segregation, and race riots - racism and violence against black people is high.

The black literature written during this time (Frederick Douglass, WEB DuBois, Booker T. Washington, etc) is a collection of the plight from slavery through Civil Rights.  Much of it is politically charged.  As black Americans sought to gain power and freedom in this country, like any other historic events - the writing reflects the sentiments of the people.  Understand also, that while the literature in this period reflects the hopes and ideals of black Americans, it does not yet celebrate complete freedom.

Finally - remember the Harlem Renaissance begins around 1920 - when there was an explosion of black literature and art out of Harlem, NY.