What do racism and American literature have in common?

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A better way to approach this might be to consider how racism is reflected in American literature, and to do that, one would have to then choose a direction or group on which to focus.  For example, in the United States one could focus on racism as related to Native Americans or African Americans.  In either case, literature relating to attitudes of white Europeans to these groups could be traced to the first European interactions either via the first settlers (Pilgrims, Puritans for example), or the development of the slave trade from Africa.  Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn would be a starting place for understanding racist attitudes toward slaves in the 1800's; similarly, Mary Boykin Chesnut, a Southern plantation wife, recorded her impressions of the slavery system prior to the Civil War in A Diary from Dixie.  One doesn't have to look far to find plenty of literature on the subject during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s work is as good a place to start as any.  This is a broad topic for any student to tackle, but the most important step would be first to establish a direction in terms of which ethnic group's racist experience to consider, then determine what time period one would like to focus on.  From there, the challenge becomes picking and choosing the authors and literature that prove most interesting and informative. 

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