February 20, 2015

Takeia Johnson

photos_johnson

Major and Classification

English, Political Science

Faculty Mentors

  • Professor Carla Kaplan

Department

  • English & Political Science

McNair Project

“Self-Revelation from Douglass to Morrison: African American Writers’ Distrust of the Reader”

Zora Neale Hurston writes in Their Eyes Were Watching God that self-revelation is the oldest human longing. Self revelation is especially important for African Americans because their people’s history in America reveals how they have been marginalized, subjugated, and made to feel inferior. This history of marginalization and subjugation produces in African American writers a distrust of the reader when they attempt to self-reveal through literature. Consequently, self-revelation remains a difficult task for African American writers. I explored my thesis in a historical context and through a close reading of literature that reflects this distrust, including works by authors such as Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison. The texts that I examined collectively represent the historical trajectory of African American literature, beginning with slavery, continuing through the Harlem Renaissance, and ending with literature of the 21st century. I conclude that although African Americans’ social status has improved, as evidenced by their increased and varied forms of literary self expression, African American literature continues to reveal a distrust of the reader.