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 God, Native 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 Recognition
- Winner of the 2012 Book Award, College Language Association
- Winner of the 2012 Literary Award for Nonfiction, Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.
- Winner of the 2011 PROSE Award in Literature, Association of American Publishers
- Finalist for the 2011 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Nonfiction, The Hurston/Wright Foundation
- Finalist for the 2011 National Book Award, Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change, University of Memphis
- Winner of the 2010 William Sanders Scarborough Prize, Modern Language Association
"[Jackson's] encyclopedic book offers a chronological, old-fashioned history of literature, covering a period desperately in need of thorough-going research and detail, and presents a deeply documented, dense but thoroughly readable account. . . . Jackson's detail may offer more than the casual sightseer seeks, but scholars will rely upon and mine his monumental work and the prodigious research upon which it is based. It should guide the way African-American and American literature is studied."—Publishers Weekly
"A meticulously researched, detailed account of African American literature and its critics from the end of the Harlem Renaissance to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. . . . A valuable resource for scholars and graduate students in African American studies."—William Gargan, Library Journal
"[This] exhaustive compilation—covering from the well-known writers to the little recognized—traverses the journeys of the artists and their links in the hubs of Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C."—Maudlyne Ihejirika, Chicago Sun-Times
"Ambitious. . . . Rich with photos and well written, the book merits praise for the deserved attention it brings to the rise of African American criticism and intellectualism and to the many important people who figured in the rise of better-known novelists."—Choice
"Jackson's formulation of the indignant generation is a prodigious contribution to African American literary history."—Andrew M. Fearnley, Journal of American Studies
"The Indignant Generation is a must-read for scholars of American culture on both sides of the Atlantic. . . . Jackson's book is invaluable for its historiographic, hermeneutic, and literary merits."—Sieglinde Lemke, American Studies
"African-American writers had plenty to be indignant about during the middle decades of the 20th century. . . . Lawrence P. Jackson surveys the era with clarity and perception. Focusing on the literary hubs of Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C., the book captures the complexities of the period, the great hope and skepticism its black writers engendered."—Steve Bogira, Chicago Reader
"Lawrence Jackson's monumental and epic study, The Indignant Generation, provides a masterful overview of yet another key period in African American literary history. . . . At every level, this book of encyclopedic proportions . . . is well researched and well written in an elegant and superb style."—Riche Richardson, Southern Literary Journal
"Lawrence Jackson's authoritatively detailed and lively Indignant Generation is an omnium gatherum of virtually everybody of color in the mid-twentieth century who tried to write the Great American Novel. This excellent study should become a literary and cultural history benchmark."—David Levering Lewis, author of W. E. B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century 1919-1963, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
"The Indignant Generation is the most comprehensive portrait of the literary history in that glorious interregnum between the Harlem Renaissance of the twenties and the Black Arts Movement of the sixties. Combining close reading with a keen sensitivity to cultural and political context, Jackson has brought this little-studied period to life, and he has done so with compelling erudition. This book is a major contribution to literary scholarship. I learned quite a lot reading it, and enjoyed every minute doing so."—Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Harvard University
"This is a magisterial book. Lawrence Jackson is a first-rate historian—I salute him!"—Cornel West, Princeton University
"The Indignant Generation is a thoroughly researched, highly informative, and remarkably important African American literary study about a neglected period of black creative writing. It fills some very important holes in black literary history, and all of us who work in literature are grateful that Jackson has taken on this task and done it so well."—Gerald Early, series editor of Best African American Fiction and Best African American Essays
"This is a landmark work in the history of African American studies and American intellectual history. Writing with verve, Jackson brings to life a large cast of characters and traces an ongoing conversation among the writers and critics of this period. This book is likely to become a model for a new generation of scholars, both for the breadth of its engagement and the depth of its archival research."—Werner Sollors, Harvard University
"The Indignant Generation is a massively well-researched narrative history of African American writing from the Great Depression through the first wave of the nonviolent Civil Rights movement. Jackson's inclusive and often fresh detail promises to install his work as a standard reference on African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century."—William J. Maxwell, Washington University in St. Louis