Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of The African American Literary Tradition

Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of the African American Literary Tradition is a compilation of literary and cultural works that originated from call and response patterns in African and African American cultural traditions. The 1997 anthology includes works representing the centuries-long emergence of this distinctly Black literary and cultural aesthetic in fiction, poetry, drama, essays, sermons, speeches, criticism, journals, and song lyrics from spirituals to rap. Writings ranging from Queen Latifah to Phyllis Wheatley and LeRoi Jones are included within this volume.

The anthology, published by the Houghton Mifflin Company, organizes its selections around three themes: the pattern of call and response, the journey toward freedom, and major historical events in the African American experience. The anthology editors have woven together selections, critical analysis of the texts, historical background, and biographies into a scholarly, unified, and chronological approach to African American literature and culture. Dr. Patricia Liggins Hill of the University of San Francisco served as general editor of the anthology.

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    Literary tradition is full of lies about poverty—the jolly beggar, the poor but happy milkmaid, the wholesome diet of porridge, etc.
    Mason Cooley (b. 1927)

    The American doctrinaire is the converse of the American demagogue, and, in this way, is scarcely less injurious to the public. The first deals in poetry, the last in cant. He is as much a visionary on one side, as the extreme theoretical democrat is a visionary on the other.
    James Fenimore Cooper (1789–1851)

    She had exactly the German way: whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of the Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.
    Mark Twain [Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835–1910)

    I think it’s unfair for people to try to make successful blacks feel guilty for not feeling guilty.... We’re unique in that we’re not supposed to enjoy the things we’ve worked so hard for.
    Patricia Grayson, African American administrator. As quoted in Time magazine, p. 59 (March 13, 1989)

    Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes—our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking around.
    Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874–1936)

    Slim/Marie Brown: Whadya think you’re gonna do?
    Harry Morgan: I’m gonna get that wallet, Slim.
    Marie: I’d rather you wouldn’t call me Slim. I’m a little too skinny to take it kindly.
    Jules Furthman (1888–1960)

    Upset at the young wife’s
    first loss of virtue
    in a riverside thicket,
    a flock of birds
    flies up,
    mourning the loss
    with their wings.
    Hla Stavhana (c. 50 A.D.)

    For him nor deep nor hill there is,
    But all’s one level plain he hunts for flowers.
    —Unknown. The Thousand and One Nights.

    AWP. Anthology of World Poetry, An. Mark Van Doren, ed. (Rev. and enl. Ed., 1936)