Maret 06, 2020

Oleh: Karina Hanum Luthfia

(Mahasiswi S3 Kajian Amerika UGM dan Dosen Sastra Inggris Universitas Negeri Semarang)

The origin of African American literature is the narrative of African American slavery. In the eighteenth century, the characteristics of African American literature dominantly stretched on the slavery life struggling for the abolition movement. Liberty is summoned to live with the African American people. However, the institutional systemized slavery was strongly bonded to its root, hence African American found the circumstance difficult to pose opposition toward the domination. Capitalism was found as the foundation of the power relation. The landowner held the privilege in taking control of the slavery’s life. As violence emerged as the interracial equality developed, the life of eighteenth-century African American slavery was portrayed in an inhuman circumstance.

Reacting to the suffering of which experienced by African American social group, abolition of the slavery and freedom for the African American was advanced through education, Education was believed as the key to conduct African American’s consciousness on what was happening to their society, that slavery is not the nature of being African in the United State, yet it is constructed by the White American. Literacy is the most characteristic advanced through nineteenth century. The activity in pursuing education was elaborated to the African American church or religion in achieving the freedom of African American people. Meanwhile, oppression toward African American educational movement was advanced for the aim to set  the limit on the African American literacy development from which portrayed as a threat for White American sovereignty.

In the twentieth century, the struggle of African American in pursuing their freedom and education as the basic right of being human beings had been successfully possessed. People of African American was no longer living under institutionalized slavery, in addition, they had access for education. In fact, the inequality as the characteristics of African American literature portrayed the shifting issue spreading among the African American’s life which was racism. The writer recognized that racism is the core of the African American characteristics started from the beginning in eighteenth century. However, the racism happened during that period was considered as causal reason from African American of being slavery, yet in the modern era as African American had held the freedom and education, racism does still exist toward African American people. 

Political and economic life can be taken into account to depict on how African American apparently still struggle for their lives. Politically, African American did not own a right to vote, subsequently at the point they did, it was provided only for male African American from which gender inequality emerged as another characteristic. Furthermore, African American take the position of the highest educated social group in the United States, yet still they have to struggle with racism since African American achieved less payment than White American even they are at the same level of quality. This circumstance triggered the African American to pursue their self-determination. 

Self-determination and pride of being African American characterized the African American literature in form of identity in the twenty-first century. The oppositioning against the inequality and racism was voiced through self-determination. The respect toward the body, the complexion, and the descendant of African American in the society was reflected in the literary work as a voice of African American people’s resistance. The movement was in addition supported by the unique characteristics of African American in form of strongly bonded community and sisterhood. Hence, taken from the portrayal, literary work of African American was inferred to be a discourse spreading the voice of African American vision.


Karina Hanum Luthfia atau biasa dipanggil Hanum, adalah seorang mahasiswi S3 Pengkajian Amerika yang juga mengajar di Universitas Negeri Semarang. Saat ini sedang menitikberatkan fokusnya ke kampus untuk mengajar dan penelitian mengenai gerakan literasi di Indonesia. Ia juga memiliki pengalaman menjadi volunteer dan researcher di salah satu locally run NGO di Yogyakarta.

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