Work of the Fellows: Monographs

The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960

By Lawrence P. Jackson (NHC Fellow, 2004–05)

Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010

From the publisher’s description:

The Indignant Generation is the first narrative history of the neglected but essential period of African American literature between the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights era. The years between these two indispensable epochs saw the communal rise of Richard Wright, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, and many other influential black writers. While these individuals have been duly celebrated, little attention has been paid to the political and artistic milieu in which they produced their greatest works. With this commanding study, Lawrence Jackson recalls the lost history of a crucial era.

Looking at the tumultuous decades surrounding World War II, Jackson restores the “indignant” quality to a generation of African American writers shaped by Jim Crow segregation, the Great Depression, the growth of American communism, and an international wave of decolonization. He also reveals how artistic collectives in New York, Chicago, and Washington fostered a sense of destiny and belonging among diverse and disenchanted peoples. As Jackson shows through contemporary documents, the years that brought us Their Eyes Were Watching GodNative Son, and Invisible Man also saw the rise of African American literary criticism — by both black and white critics.

Fully exploring the cadre of key African American writers who triumphed in spite of segregation, The Indignant Generation paints a vivid portrait of American intellectual and artistic life in the mid-twentieth century.

Awards and Prizes
William Sanders Scarborough Prize (2010)
College Language Association Book Award (2012)
PROSE Award (2011)
Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award (2012)
Literature / History / Literary Criticism / African Americans / African American Literature / African American History / Harlem Renaissance / American Civil Rights Movement /

Jackson, Lawrence P. (NHC Fellow, 2004–05). The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.