A NEW HISTORICIST APPRAISAL OF SINGLE MOTHERHOOD IN AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE: A STUDY OF JAMES MCBRIDE’S THE COLOR OF WATER AND MAYA ANGELOU’S MOM & ME & MOM

A NEW HISTORICIST APPRAISAL OF SINGLE MOTHERHOOD IN AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE: A STUDY OF JAMES MCBRIDE’S THE COLOR OF WATER AND MAYA ANGELOU’S MOM & ME & MOM

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ABSTRACT

Hardly can there be a discussion on literature without a reference to historical issues. The close relationship between literature and history makes it easier for literary writers to use historical events as raw material for their literary production. African American literary history is a rich history that writers from within and outside America have benefited from in terms of literary production. The history of slavery, migration, racism, emancipation, civil and Vietnam wars, among others have to a large extent enriched most African American literary works. These historical phases have equally given rise to issues that form the subject matters of literary production. One of such issues is that of the prevalence and alarming rate of single motherhood in African American literature which a number of writers have commented on as a negative trait. But, in line with the new historicists‟ belief that history is dynamic and subjective, this work, uses James McBride‟s The Color of Water and Maya Angelou‟s Mom & Me & Mom to portray that out of an unpleasant situation can emerge great ideologies that bring about positive societal change. Hence, single motherhood rather than being a societal vice, can be one of the tools for positive societal change. Appraising and acknowledging the positive contributions of such mothers equally stands as an encouragement to the single mothers out there who are faced with parental challenges. Again, since the new historicists argue that there is no total version of history, writers and critics can make a square out of a diameter in order to project an ideology to their readers. History is thus, a subjective view of life.

CHAPTER ONE

1.0       Introduction

The relationship between history and literature in every society, is a complementary one. In the

light of this, the history of African Americans cannot be separated from their literature for it

serves as the raw material for the writers even till present time. The term “African American

Literature” cannot be discussed without bringing to mind the circumstances that first ushered in

the presence of Africans in the land of America. Thus, to look at African American literature one

cannot avoid touching the old wound of slavery.     As a trade route, the Middle passage saw

millions of Africans being shipped into the “New World” via the Atlantic slave trade. According

to Carson, Warner and Nash (2007:43), “Millions of Africans were transported across the trans-

Atlantic in chains to labor in coffee, cotton and sugar plantations in the Americas, in what has

been described as the greatest forced migration in human history.”

Though these African slaves came from diverse socio-cultural groups and ethnicity, spoke

different languages and had different religious beliefs, the common bond of slavery forced them

to cluster together to build a common identity for themselves. This identity has today marked

their history and literature as distinct from those of other regions. By the 1830s, black

communities had many groups, organized specifically to oppose slavery and promote racial


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