African American literature is an extremely dense and rich form of literature that contains many types of similar tropes. These tropes can be seen throughout many of African American works of literature. A few that will be discussed thoroughly in this paper, that are majorly common in these types of works are: the idea of double consciousness, the question and search for identity, the Sankofa experience, the Great Migration, and lastly the return to the South. These tropes may seem very different but they all tie into the question of identity and the struggle that African Americans faced and still to this day face due to slavery. It is important to read works of African American literature in order to be able to understand the trials and tribulations that slavery brought upon this particular group of people. Reading African American literature ranging from spirituals and slave narratives, to works written during and after the Civil Rights Movement provides readers and scholars with a rare insight into the minds and lives of African Americans at that time. Much of African American literature is realistic in nature, meaning that it tends to be about their personal experiences, especially the later works; therefore, readers are able to experience firsthand the struggles that African American people faced on a daily basis.
Double-consciousness is a major theme that courses through many African American literature works. Double-consciousness was a term made up by W.E.B. Dubois and is defined in the focus of African American literature and the African American experience as "an individual whose identity is divided into several facets." (Double-Consciousness). Dubois' uses the term double-consciousness in a way to characterize the issues of race and also as a way to put a name to the feelings that most African Americans felt at the time but had no other name for (Jr.