African American Literature

Librarian for African American Literature

Timothy Johnson
Librarian for Africana Studies, Anthropology and Food Studies
New York University
Bobst Library, Mezzanine
70 Washington Square So.
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 998-2436

Research Guides

Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760-1975: A Guide to Information Sources.Detroit: Gale Research, c1979.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39A37
Bobst SpecColRef Z1229.N39A37
Bobst Z1229.N39A37

Consists of two parts: Afro-American poetry, 1760-1975 and Afro-American drama, 1850-1975. The first part is divided into general studies [bibliographies and reference works; critical studies; anthologies] and individual authors according to literary period. The second part is also divided into general studies [library resources; periodicals; biblographies; play collections; critical studies] and individual authors. Includes author, title, and subject index.


Arata, Esther Spring and Nicholas John Rotoli. Black American Playwrights, 1800 to the present: A Bibliography.Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1976. 2 vols.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39A7
Alphabetical listing of 530 African American playwrights and their works, accompanied by criticism and reviews, as well as awards. Includes title index.

Arata, Esther Spring. More Black American Playwrights: A Bibliography. With the assistance of Marlene Erickson, Sandra Dewitz, Mary Linse Alexander. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1978.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39A73
Alphabetical lisitng of African American playwrights and their works, together with criticism, reviews, and awards. Includes a general bibliography and an index.

Bakish, David and Edward Margolies. Afro-American Fiction, 1853-1976: A Guide to Information Sources.Detroit: Gale Research Co., c1979.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39B36
Bobst Z1229.N39B36

Lists African American novels and short stories, as well as secondary literature on individual authors, bibliographies, and general studies. includes author, title, and subject indexes.

Basset, John Earl. Harlem in Review: Critical Reactions to Black American Writers, 1917-1939.Selinsgrove: Susquehana University Press; Associated University Presses, c1992.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39B37 1992
Consists of five chronologically arranged chapters. Books by African American authors are by order of publication, followed by general criticism and scholarship of the period in chronological order. Book reviews are listed in alphabetical order by author under each book. Includes author/critic indexes.

Black American writers: Bibliographical Essays, ed. by M. Thomas Inge, Maurice Duke, and Jackson Bryer. New York: St. Martin's Press, c1978. 2 vols.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5B55
The first volume focuses on an appraisal of biographical and critical writings about the early African American writers [early writers, slave narratives, the polemicists, modern beginnings], the Harlem Renaissance, and Langston Hughes. Also, it defines manuscript and special resources. The chapters are organized alphabetically. Includes name index. The second volume covers four major twentieth-century African American writers [Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amili Baraka {LeRoi Jones}]. The structure is similar to vol. 1. Includes name index.

Fairbanks, Carol and Eugene A. Engeldinger. Black American Fiction: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1978.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39F34
Bobst SpecColRef Z1229.N39F34

Most entries have the structure: novels, short fiction, book reviews, biography, and criticism.

Gilkin, Ronda. Black American Women in Literature: A Bibliography, 1976 through 1987. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1989.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39G57 1989
Bibliography of the poetry, short fiction, novels, essays, and plays by, and criticism, about 300 African American women who have published in periodicals and anthologies between 1976 and 1987. Provides citations for both original works and literary criticism. Focuses on women writing creative literature. The entries are in alphabetical order. Includes index.

Houston, Helen Ruth. The Afro-American Novel, 1965-1975: A Descriptive Bibliography of Primary and Secondary Material. Troy, N.Y.: Whitston, c1977.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39H7
Bibliography of primary and secondary material on individual African American novelists who have published novels since 1964. Each author entry is subdivided as follows: 1] biography, 2] novels by the author, 3] criticism by and about the author, 4] reviews of the novels printed since 1964.

Jordan, Casper LeRoy. A Bibliographical Guide to African-American Women Writers. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1993.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39J67 1993
Alphabetically arranged African American women writers with primary and secondary sources. Lists of anthologies and general works. Includes author index.

Matthews, Geraldine O. Black American Writers, 1773-1949: A Bibliography and Union List. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1975.
Bobst Ref1 Z1361.N39M35
Catalogs over 1,600 African American authors of monographs. Divided into ten topical chapters. Includes author index.

Modern African American Writers. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baugham, series editors.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39M63 1994
The author entries start with a brief, general note on the author's life and work, followed by bibliographies of primary and secondary material. A bibliography of reference sources aids research on general aspects of American literature. There is also a bibliography of general secondary literature on African American writers, bibliographies, and biographies. Includes index.

Page, James A. and Jae Min Roh. Selected Black American, African, and Caribbean Authors: A Bio-Bibliography.Littleton, Colo.: Libraries unlimited, 1985.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39P34 1985
Bio-bibliographical information on 632 authors. The entries consist of biographical information and lists of fiction and/or non-fiction. Includes nationality, occupations, and title indexes.

Pevy, Charles D.Afro-American Literature and Culture since World War II: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research, c1979.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39P4
Part 1 consists of 28 subject entries, part 2 contains entries on individual African Americans prominent in literature and culture. Includes author, title, and subject indexes.


The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, ed. by William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, Trudier Harris; foreword by Henry Louis gates, Jr. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Bobt Ref1 PS153.N5096 1997
Covers comprehensively the texts and the historical and cultural contexts of African American literature. It documents each of the traditional belletristic genres and subgenres extensively and includes lengthy essays that outline the historical development of each genre in African American literature, as well as an analysis of genres of special importance to African American literature, such as autobiography, biography, folklore, folk literature, slave narratives, Blues poems, essays and criticism, oratory as well as sermons and preaching. Encompasses entries on familiar literary traditions, e.g., the Biblical tradition, the plantation tradition, humor, and protest literature, as well as entries on more recent ones, such as gay and lesbian literature, speculative fiction, travel writing, film, and musicals. The companion also includes biographies of writers and persons who have influenced African American literature [musicians, sports figures, political leaders, activists, and artists]. There are also 150 articles on major works and entries on character types who have appeared in African American literature across genreations, e.g. Brer Rabbit. Organized alphabetically. Includes index.


Black Literature Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Most Significant Works of Black Authors over the past 200 Years, ed. by James P. Draper. Detroit: Gale Research, c1992. 3 vols.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5B556 1992
Alphabetically arranged entries on Black authors, consisting of historical surveys of critical responses to the author's work. The entries have the following structure: author heading; biographical and critical introduction; author portrait; list of principal works; criticism; explanatory notes; biographical citation; and further reading list. Includes author, nationality, and title indexes.

Masterpieces of African-American Literature, ed. by Frank N. Magill. New York: Harper Collins, c1992.
Bobst Ref 1 PS153.N5M264 1992
Companion volume to 'Masterpieces of World Literature' [1989]. Essays on 149 African American literary works from the 18th century to the present, arranged alphabetically by title. Each entry for the 98 works, which tell a story, starts with brief information on author, type of work, type of plot, time of plot, locale, and date of first publication; followed by a critical essay. The 21 entries for works of nonfiction have a similar format. The 30 entries that evaluate authors and their works on poetry and short-story genres, start with information on author, type of work, and dates of first publication.

Masterplots II, ed. By Frank N. Magill. Psadene, Calif.: Salem, c1994. 3 vols.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5M2645 1994
Bobst PS152.NM2645 1994

The 'Masterplots II' series complements the 1976 12 vols. rev. ed. of the original 'Masterplots.' The volumes of African American literature contain 266 essays on African American literature in all genres and 47 omnibus essays. Includes author, title, and type of work indexes.

Southgate, Robert L. Black Plots & Black Characters: A Handbook for Afro-American Literature. Syracuse, N.Y.: Gaylord Professional Publications, 1979.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5S65
Alphabetically arranged entries of plots of literary works by African American writers. Includes index.


BobCat can be searched for books and other materials on African American literature with a subject search [s=1].
Examples for a broad search are:

s= American literature -- Afro-American authors
s= American drama -- Afro-American authors
s= American fiction -- Afro-American authors
s= American poetry -- Afro-American authors

Another type of search is:
s= Afro-American novelists

It is also possible to search for criticism of a specific author or one of his/her works, e.g.,
s= Baldwin, James, 1924- --Criticism and interpretation
s= Baldwin, James, 1924- --Go tell it on the mountain

For more information please consult the library of Congress Subject Headings [LCSH]. Copies of LCSH are available in all reference centers and the catalog area in the atrium.


Campbell, Dorothy W. Index to Black American Writers in Collective Biographies. Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1982.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39C35 1983
This index lists approximately 1,900 African American writers appearing in collective biographies. A group of 267 titles with publication dates ranging from 1837 to 1982, consisting of the group of general biographical reference tools and specialized materials.

MLA International Bibliography of Books and Articles on the Modern Languages and Literatures. 1921 to date. [Annual]
Bobst Ref1 Network Terminals
Bobst Ref1 Index Z7006.M64

This is the most thorough listing of research on literature, covering books and articles in journals and in certain books. It does not list book reviews, or chapters in books. Its contents from 1981 to the most recent are accessible through a computer file on CD. See RG52, How to use the MLA Bibliography, for details. It is available in paper from 1921. The organization of the print version has changed several times in the last few decades.


Afro-American Fiction Writers after 1955, ed. by Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1984.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5.A34 1984
Alphabetically arranged chapters on individual African American fiction writers who have published after 1955. Includes cumulative index.

Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760-1975: A Guide to Information Sources.Detroit: Gale Research, c1979.
Bobst Ref1 Z1229.N39A37
Bobst Z1229.N39A37
Bobst SpecColRef Z1229.N39A37

Divided into part 1, African American poetry, 1760-1975: a. bibliographies and reference works, critical studies, and anthologies; and b. Individual authors, 1760-1900; 1901-1945; 1946-1975 and part 2: Afro-American drama, 1850-1975: a. list of literary resources, bibliographies, play collections, and critical studies; b. individual authors, 1850-1900; 1901-1950; 1951-1975. Includes author, title, and subject indexes.

Afro-American Poets since 1955, ed. by Trudier Harris and Thadious M. Davis. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Reseacch, c1985.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5A83 1985
Individual articles on African American poets who have published since 1955. Includes index.

African American Writers, Valerie Smith, consulting editor; Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz, general editors. New York; Toronto: Scribner's Sons; Collier Macmillan Canada; Macmillan International, c1991.
Each article begins with a brief biographical section, followed by a survey of the writer's principal writings and an evaluation of his/her work. Each article concludes with a bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Includes index.
Afro-American Writers, 1940-1955, ed. by Trudier Harris, associate editor and Thadious M. Davis. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, c1998.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5A386 1998
Chapters on individual African American writers. Includes index.

Afro-American Writers after 1955: Dramatists and Prose Writers, ed. by Thadious M. Davis and Trudier Harris. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1985.
Bobst Ref1 PS152.N5A39 1985
The main part consists of alphabetically arranged chapters on individual African American dramatists and prose writers who have published after 1955. The appendix includes articles on the Black Arts movement, community and commentators, the Kennedy Center Black Theatre Project, and the Black theater and theater organization in America, 1961-1982.

Afro-American Writers before the Harlem Renaissance, ed. by Trudier Harris. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research, 1986.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5A393 1986
Individual chapters on African American writers. Includes cumulative index.

Peterson, Bernard L.Contemporary Black American Playwrights and Their Plays: A Biographical Directory and Dramatic Index. New York: Greenwood, 1988.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5P43 1988
Bobst PS153.N5P43 1988

Entries on more than 700 African American and Black U.S. resident playwrights. Biographical sketches and brief summaries of plays. Two appendixes on: 1] 100 additional playwrights whose scripts are located in special repositories, and 2] on more than 75 other contemporary African American playwrights. Includes title index and index of theaters, theatrical organizations and awards.

Peterson, Bernard L.Early Black American Playwrights and Dramatic Writers: A Biographical Directory and Catalog of Plays, Films, and Broadcasting Scripts. Foreword by Errol Hill. New York: Greenwood, c1990.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5P44 1990
Covers 218 African American playwrights, screenwriters, etc., whose works work were written and/or produced during the 19th century or in the first half of the 20th century. Biographical sketches are, if applicable, followed by collective works and an annotated index of the playwright's individual works. Includes title and subject indexes, and an index of African American theater organizations and producing groups.

Roses, Lorraine Elena and Ruth Elizabeth Randolph. Harlem Renaissance and Beyond: Literary Biographies of 100 Black Women Writers, 1900-1950. Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall, 1990.
Bobst Ref1 PS153.N5R65 1989
Each entry consists of a brief literary biography and a bibliography of selected primary and secondary sources. Includes indexes of African American women writers by genre, geographic location, date, and title.

Rush, Theresa Gunnels et al. Black American Writers Past and Present: A Biographical and Bibliographical Dictionary. Metuchen, N.J. Scarecrow, 1975.
Bobst SpecColRef Z1229.N39R87
Entries on over 2,000 African American writers from the early 18th century to 1975. The bibliographical information includes primary and secondary sources.
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