Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes "The Afro-American literary tradition was generated as a response to allegations that its authors did not, and could not create literature, considered the signal measure of a race's innate "humanity." (Gates 2427) In this way, Gates goes on to say that merely adopting the modes of western literature is not enough; African Americans need to go beyond this and "develop a coherent criticism to communicate the complexities of our culture." (Gates 2430)
Consider the following excerpt from Wright's "Black Boy," in view of the above statements:
"The plots and stories in the novels did not interest me so much as the point of view revealed. I gave myself over to each novel without trying to criticize it; it was enough for me to see and feel something different. And for me, everything was something different. Reading was like a drug, a dope. The novels created moods in which I lived for days. But I could not conquer my sense of guilty, my feeling that the white men around me knew that I was changing, that I had begun to regard them differently." (Wright 250)
In my view, this excerpt stands at odds with Gates. The works that Wright describes are all of western literature (Mark Twain, Thomas Hardy, Bernard Shaw, T.S. Eliot, Nietzsche, etc). I think that Gates would argue that, as a black man, Wright should not look toward such writers to groom his intelligence but look for those "language (s) [in which] black people ... represent their critical or ideological positions." (Gates 2431) Would you agree with this? Do you think one's blackness requires them to purposefully search for works that illuminate black complexities? Or, can a man such as Wright retain his blackness and still develop his own literature persona and tastes through these western writers?