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Professors stress importance of black literature outside of Black History Month
But, in the case of Ball State’s English professors, literature written by black individuals are being taught in their classrooms, and some have even written books on the subject.
English professor Emily Rutter wrote two books about different aspects of African American history and culture and is currently working on a third about the impact African Americans have on sports and entertainment.
Her first book, “Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line,” is about how baseball was a prominent aspect of African American communities during segregation. “The Blues Muse: Race, Gender, and Musical Celebrity in American Poetry,” Rutter’s second book, is about “how and why the blues are invoked as poetic muses.”
Rutter said it’s important for students to study African American literature because they’ve been a part of America’s history since the colonies.
“The first Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, centuries before the ancestors of most citizens of European descent. Thus, African American literature is an essential part of American literature, and should be included in any course or text with that title,” Rutter said.
“Yet, because of institutionalized racism, black literature was excluded from the American literary canon until quite recently.”
Even though February is Black History Month, Rutter said black history should be celebrated all year round, especially in a classroom setting.
She teaches an African American Literature course and said that in class, her students study various arrays of black literary texts, ranging from novels to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.”
“In all of these courses, I facilitate a classroom culture that encourages students to develop their own understandings of black cultural texts while developing an appreciation for the immense contributions that citizens of African descent make to American life and art,” Rutter said.
English professor Angela Jackson-Brown, teaches African American literature in her ENG 405 class. She said that students should be exposed to literature regardless of the author’s ethnicity.
“The readers are what make the literature memorable. Good literature is a dance between the mind of the writer and the imagination of the reader. There has to be a marriage (commitment) between readers and writers,” Jackson-Brown said. “The writer must find the words that will resonate within the mind and heart of the reader long after he [or] she puts down the book.”
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