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Representing the RaceA New Political History of African American Literature$
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Gene Andrew Jarrett

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780814743386

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814743386.001.0001

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Toward a New Political History of African American Literature

(p.1) Introduction
Representing the Race

Gene Andrew Jarrett

NYU Press

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the political value of African American literature through an examination of Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama. Prior to their careers as elected officials, both men wrote books that had been influential in shaping public opinion on the nation's democratic potential as well as on their own personal, political, and presidential qualifications. In 1776, Jefferson coauthored the Declaration of Independence, and in 1787, he published an authoritative ethnography of early America. Meanwhile, Obama released three bestselling books of autobiographical nonfiction and public policy. Evidently, African American literature fueled their political imaginations. Thus, this book looks at African American literature's role in political imagination and political action—to the extent that it can facilitate social change—and political action's role in the African American literary imagination.

Keywords:   African American literature, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, Declaration of Independence, political imaginations, political action, literary imagination

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