(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

This study of African American history remains notable for both its straightforward, objective style and its detailed, informative content, which is clearly written and logically organized. Until the third section of Blues People, Baraka’s personal opinion is less important than those of the scholars and contemporary authors whom he cites throughout the book to develop and illustrate his points, demonstrating Baraka’s wide range of reading and research. His study is credible and authoritative because of the care and intelligence devoted to the project, and young readers can rely on Blues People to be a useful, imaginative, and readily understandable overview of black life in America up to 1963.

Readers should be aware, however, that Baraka keeps to his thesis of using music as his focal theme and that much of African American culture is not touched on in Blues People. For example, he has little to say about the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s, and there are only passing references to African American literature, political leaders, or spokespeople outside of the musical milieu. Early critics of the book decried these omissions. As Baraka himself remains a noted dramatist, poet, essayist, and important civil activist on black issues, such omissions may seem surprising in the context of his prolific and productive writing career. Yet, on its own, Blues People amply serves the author’s stated purpose and is an important cultural study of its intended subject.


(The entire section is 624 words.)