African American Autobiography Analysis

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African American autobiography is motivated by a revisionist attitude toward exploring the issues involving the black people in America and the autobiographer himself. The genre of autobiography is often utilised as a tool to demolish the myths of black inferiority, and to break the chains which have held the African American in bondage to the white man over the generations. Thus, often in its final rendering, African American autobiography is a quest for freedom while opposing and repudiating oppression and discrimination based on colour. Therefore, a study of African American autobiography proves its uniqueness while it continues to adhere to the autobiographical canon. Attempting a general yet comprehensive definition of autobiography, James Olney writes that it is: a recollective/narrative act in which the writer, from a certain point in his life – the present - , looks back over the events of that life and recounts them in such a way as to show how that past history has led to this present state of being. Exercising memory, in order that he may recollect and narrate, the autobiographer is not a neutral and passive recorder but rather a creative and active shaper (The Slave’s Narrative: 149).…show more content…
African American autobiographies, on the other hand are subjective like most modern autobiographies, and move from alienation to identity, from unconsciousness to awareness, and also from deprivation to success and from birth to the present stage. Therefore, African American autobiography falls within the given framework of an autobiography, and is valid for analysis under the general category, but, at the same time, it is distinct in that it contains the African Americans’ problems, agonies, and aspirations, which are unique to the race and have no parallels in the general autobiographer’s…show more content…
In fact, African American autobiography can be traced back to slave narratives which were popular both before and during the Abolitionist Movement. According to Costanzo, autobiography appealed to the eighteenth century black man because it enabled the freed slave to narrate his “interesting and remarkable tale” and also provided scope “to scrutinize his life for purpose of self-discovery and identification in the alien world of the west” (Surprising Narrative: 8). A slave narrative, like Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom while presenting the life of an individual slave is an epitome of “black experience” in that it explores the condition of the blacks in America, the exploitation of the blacks by whites, and the racist and materialistic American Society. “They [the slave narratives] give us eyewitness accounts of the furnace of misery in the Old South that supplied raw materials for the Industrial Revolution” (Butterfield, Black Autobiography:
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