African American Literature is a composite of many different life stories and experiences African Americans have had to endure throughout a lifetime. From African American Heritage, which goes all the way back to literature written by African's who were brought to America as slaves up to now (which is considered the Affirmative Action Era), there has been somewhat of an African American diary that continues to evolve throughout our times. As of now there is Pre-20th African American Literature, which would include authors like Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, William Wells Brown, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Charles Waddell Chesnutt and Frances Harper. The second of the two time periods assigned to African American literature is 20th century, and that would include authors such as Sterling A. Brown, Jean Toomer, Zora Neal Hurston, Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Maya Angelou and the list goes on to include newer African American authors and scholars such as Cornell West, Toni Morrison and Nikki Giovanni. All of these novelists, playwrights and poets have created a historical journey in their literature with all the trials, tribulations, discriminations, murders, accomplishments and pride of African Americans throughout their life whether it was the ways of our heritage or dealing with inferiority, this literature has enlightened all and brought back much of the history that African Americans wouldn't have any access to otherwise. .
Most of the earliest works done by African American's in literature dealt with African Heritage, Enslavement, Abolitionism, Reconstruction and the Civil War and it all began during the 1700's by way of poetry. Lucy Terry, a slave, created the poem "Bar Fight" about an Indian raid on a Massachusetts town and handed it down orally in 1746. After Terry's poem, a woman by the name of Phillis Wheatley whom was a slave from Boston that had first started writing poetry when she was 14 created the first published book by an African American.