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Early African American Authors: Background information when reading Ginny Gall

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Ginny Gall

by Charlie Smith

Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith X
Ginny Gall by Charlie Smith
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 464 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Early African American Authors

This article relates to Ginny Gall

Print Review

In Ginny Gall, the main character is an avid reader who aspires to be much like the black authors he admires. A few early African Americans writers are listed below.

Top, from left to right: Johnson, Wilson, Brown; Bottom, from left to right: Fauset, Du Bois, Dunbar

Top, from left to right: James Weldon Johnson, Harriet Wilson, William Wells Brown
Bottom, from left to right: Jessie Fauset,W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar


William Wells Brown (1814 – 1884) was an author, journalist and playwright. An escaped slave from Kentucky, Brown published his autobiography, Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave in 1847. The book, which highlighted the disconnect between Christian tenants and the actions of white slaveholders, became a bestseller across the United States and launched his career as an abolitionist lecturer. His subsequent works were mostly non-fiction but included one novel — Clotel: or, The President's Daughter (1853) about the fictional slave daughters of Thomas Jefferson. The book is held to be the first novel published by an African American.

Harriet E. Wilson (1825 - 1900) is considered the first African American woman novelist. Her autobiographical book, Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, was published in 1859, and addressed racism in the pre-Civil War North.

W.E.B. Du Bois (1868 – 1963) is acknowledged one of the most important African American activists during the first half of the 20th Century. Born in Massachusetts, in 1895 he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Four years later he published his landmark study, "The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study," the first case study of an African American community. According to biography.com: "While working as a professor at Atlanta University, W.E.B. Du Bois rose to national prominence when he very publicly opposed Booker T. Washington's 'Atlanta Compromise,' an agreement that asserted that vocational education for blacks was more valuable to them than social advantages like higher education or political office. Du Bois criticized Washington for not demanding equality for African Americans, as granted by the 14th Amendment...In the years following, he adamantly opposed the idea of biological white superiority and vocally supported women's rights." Du Bois published his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk, a collection of 14 essays in 1903.

James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938) was an author, diplomat, civil rights activist, songwriter, literary critic and lawyer. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, he's regarded as one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance. He graduated from Atlanta University and began work as a grammar school principal, while founding a newspaper. He subsequently became the first African American to pass the Florida Bar exam. His first novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) was based partly on his life in Harlem and Atlanta. He also garnered acclaim for God's Trombones (1927), a collection of stories celebrating the African American experience in the rural South. With his brother John, he co-wrote the song, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which later became the official anthem of the NAACP; the duo went on to write over 200 songs for Broadway musicals.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 – 1906) was an author and poet, son of former slaves. He began writing poetry when he was a child; his first works were published in a Dayton, Ohio newspaper when he was just sixteen. He was one of the first African American writers to attempt to make a living solely from writing, and became known for his verse and short stories written in black dialect. He was also one of the first African American writers to establish a literary reputation internationally. In 1903 he composed the lyrics for the comedy, In Dahomey, the first all-African American musical produced on Broadway. It also toured the rest of the US and the UK.

Jessie Fauset (1882 – 1961) was born in New Jersey; she graduated from Cornell University, and taught school in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Fauset began submitting essays, poems and reviews in 1912 to The Crisis, a magazine founded by W.E.B. Du Bois, who subsequently hired her as its literary editor in 1919. Fauset was inspired to write her first novel, There Is Confusion (1924) after reading an inaccurate portrayal of African Americans in a book written by a white author. Her books feature middle-class African Americans, which was a controversial choice at the time and made it difficult for her to get her works published.

Picture of William Wells Brown from his book
Picture of Harriet Wilson from Well Read Black Girl
Picture of James Weldon Johnson from Twentieth Century Negro Literature
Picture of W. E. B. DuBois from Library of Congress
Picture of Paul Laurence Dunbar from Ohio Historical Society, Library of Congress
Picture of Jessie Fauset from Blackpast.org

Filed under Books and Authors

Article by Kim Kovacs

This "beyond the book article" relates to Ginny Gall. It originally ran in March 2016 and has been updated for the February 2017 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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