American History is rich with literary artifacts; beyond novels, short stories and essays, the American trail was blazed with story-telling, poetry, political speeches, folk songs and letters. The young country struggled first for freedom, then to define itself and even -- during the civil war -- to hold itself together. But it also struggled to find its own literary voice; to speak "American" and write "American." It struggled to break free of the European traditions that colonists and immigrants brought with them from "the old country." Even the founding fathers, while striking the Declaration of Independence and drafting the Constitution borrowed on the deep traditions and learnings of European history. As the country progessed and its identity grew, a strong and unique voice, an American voice began to emerge in its writings and letters. This new literacy was rich in the thoughts and feelings of a free people; a unique voice borne of the uniquely American experience.
This section of American Literature will focus on the rise of this new voice -- "crying in the wilderness" -- seeking to define itself. Over time, I hope to move beyond traditional "Western American History" (e.g. the experience of the European settlers and other immigrants) and venture to include contributions from Native American Indians and African American slaves. In addition to the historical figures below, we offer Reference Documents, an African American Library, Civil War Stories and World War I Literature