Reading African American Lives

Jeffrey Leak, Associate Professor of English,
UNC Charlotte

Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker.  These are some of the most well-known names in African American and American literature.  Their stories, poems, plays, and essays are considered a major contribution to the American cultural tradition.  But what about the stories of their lives?  What was happening in Hurston’s life, for example, when she penned what is now referred to as the first black love story in her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God?  In the case of Jean Toomer, who wrote Cane, the inaugural text of the Harlem Renaissance, how did he come to define himself as no longer black after its publication?  This seminar will explore some of the major work of these writers, along with the biographical exploration of their lives.  Teachers will have a chance to learn how to incorporate biographical studies into their pedagogy.

Participating Fellows