Reframing Afrofuturism, a Historical, Spiritual and Conceptual History by Floyd Webb
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In 1859, Martin Delany (1812–1885), one of the foremost U.S. black political leaders, began publishing Blake, or the Huts of America as a serial in the Anglo-American Magazine.
Charles W. Chesnutt
Charles Waddell Chesnutt (June 20, 1858 – November 17, 1932) was a mixed race author, essayist, political activist and lawyer, best known for his novels and short stories exploring complex issues of racial and social identity in the post-Civil War South. Many families of free people of color were formed in the colonial and early Federal period; some attained education and property; in addition there were many mixed-race slaves, who freedmen after the war were part of the complex society of the South. Two of his books were adapted as silent films in 1926 and 1927 by the African-American director and producer Oscar Micheaux.
The 1892 novel Iola Leroy by Frances Harper (1825–1911), the leading black woman poet of the 19th century, has been described as the first piece of African-American utopian fiction on account of its vision of a peaceful and equal polity of men and women, whites and former slaves.
Sutton Griggs (1872–1933)
1899 novel Imperium in Imperio by Sutton Griggs (1872–1933) ends with preparations for a violent takeover of Texas for African Americans by a secret black government.
The Conjure Woman
The Conjure Woman is the title of an 1899 collection of seven stories by Charles W. Chesnutt, an important African-American writer from the post-Civil War South; it was his first book. The stories deal with the racial issues facing the South after the war, often through the comments of the character of Uncle Julius McAdoo. A freed slave, he tells the stories to John and Annie, a white couple from the North, who are visiting in their search for property, as they are thinking of moving south (because of Annie's health) and of buying an old plantation in "Patesville", North Carolina. Uncle Julius's stories are derived from African-American folk tales and include many supernatural occurrences built around hoodoo conjuring traditions. They are less idealistic and romanticized than John's understanding of Southern culture. They tell of black resistance to and revenge against white culture. The stories' basis in folk traditions earned publication of the collection. Chesnutt had originally submitted a proposed collection that included only two or three conjure tales, but the editors felt that these were the best and most innovative part of the collection. They asked him to write more in order to have enough for a full book. The book was adapted by Oscar Micheaux as a silent film released as The Conjure Woman in 1926.
Imperium in Imperio (1899)
Sutton Elbert Griggs (June 19, 1872 - January 2, 1933) was an African-American author, Baptist minister, and social activist. He is best known for his novel Imperium in Imperio, a utopian work that envisions a separate African-American state within the United States. Griggs's first novel follows a familiar formula: two childhood friends are separated by wealth, education, skin tone, and political outlook; one is a militant and one an integrationist. A traumatic incident galvanizes the more moderate friend into action, and the two work together to redress the injustice. Imperium in Imperio (1899) follows this plotline with a startling twist: the revelation of an African American "empire within an empire," a shadow government complete with a Congress based in Waco, Texas. The light-skinned and more militant Bernard Belgrave who has been hand-picked to serve as president advocates a takeover of the Texas state government, while the dark-skinned Belton Piedmont argues for assimilation and cooperation. Bernard reluctantly has Belton executed as a traitor only after Belton resigns from the Imperium (an act that is tantamount to suicide), leaving the potentially violent and unstable Bernard in control of the Imperium as the novel ends.
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1859 – August 13, 1930) was a prominent African-American novelist, journalist, playwright, historian, and editor. She is considered a pioneer in her use of the romantic novel to explore social and racial themes. Her work reflects the influence of W. E. B. Du Bois. Her first known work, a musical play called Slaves’ Escape; or, The Underground Railroad (later revised as Peculiar Sam; or, The Underground Railroad), first performed in 1880, is one of the earliest-known literary treatments of slaves escaping to freedom. Her short story "Talma Gordon", published in 1900, is often named as the first African-American mystery story. She explored the difficulties faced by African-Americans amid the racist violence of post-Civil War America in her first novel, Contending Forces: A Romance Illustrative of Negro Life North and South, published in 1900. She published three serial novels between 1901 and 1903 in the African American periodical Colored American Magazine: Hagar's Daughter: A Story of Southern Caste Prejudice, Winona: A Tale of Negro Life in the South and Southwest, and Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self. She sometimes used the pseudonym Sarah A. Allen. Hopkins spent the remainder of her years working as a stenographer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from burns sustained in a house fire.
Of One Blood (1902)
Of One Blood (1902) by the prolific writer and editor Pauline Hopkins (1859–1930), describing the discovery of a hidden civilization with advanced technology in Ethiopia, is the first Lost Race novel by an African-American author.
Edward Austin Johnson (1860–1944)
Edward Austin Johnson (1860–1944) was an attorney who became the first African-American member of the New York state legislature when he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1917. Light Ahead for the Negro, was his 1904 novel Biography Johnson was born in slavery in Wake County, North Carolina. Johnson, in his early education, was taught by a free colored woman, Miss Nancy Walton. He continued his education at Washington High School. He then attended Atlanta University and worked as a school principal from 1883 until 1891, first in Atlanta and then in Raleigh, North Carolina. Meanwhile, he wrote A School History of the Negro Race in America, which was the first textbook by a black author to be approved by the North Carolina State Board of Education for use in the public schools. Johnson earned a law degree at Shaw University in 1891 and thereafter practiced law in the Raleigh area while also teaching at Shaw. Johnson won every case that he argued before the North Carolina Supreme Court. From 1899 to 1907, he was an assistant to the U.S. Attorney for eastern North Carolina. Johnson became active in the Republican Party and served a term on Raleigh's city board of aldermen. In 1907, Johnson left North Carolina for New York City. He became active in Harlem and in the Republican Party there. He was a member of the New York State Assembly (New York Co., 19th D.) in 1918. In 1928, he ran for Congress in the 21st District but lost to Royal H. Weller. Despite his loss, he received the greatest number of votes from the Republican party in his district. Even with the loss of his sight in 1925, he continued to work in politics and on various projects that supported his country and race.
W.E.B. Du Bois's 1920 story The Comet, in which only a black man and a white woman survive an apocalyptic event, is the first work of post-apocalyptic fiction in which African-Americans appear as subjects.