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Collecting African American Literature by year

Great literature has the ability to transcend social constructs and impart an experience to the reader, even if the story they are reading is wholly different from their own. Historically, most books published in America have been written by white males and the market has until recently been dominated by works created by them. However, the longing to share their experiences and feelings made African American authors rise above the restrictions placed on them, with popular works being published in the infancy of the nation, even before the start of the American Revolution.

Spanning from early poetry and religious materials to abolitionist papers and slave narratives, from lyrical novels to powerful plays, our series on collecting African American literature covers a plethora of forms and experiences. As with our other Book Collecting by the Year series, the African American Literature feature begins in 1920, putting us at the pivotal start of the Harlem Renaissance.