"In the canon of African American culture Stacy Morgan's Rethinking Social Realism is an important analysis of the 1930s as a significant period of development in African American art and literature—a period in which the artists and writers moved away from a focus on the evolving black middle class as a subject to a more sympathetic focus of visualizing and writing about the common man. This focus was a component in the search for a wholly 'American Art.' . . . This book is a precursor to explaining the significant focus on realism in the African American art of the sixties, seventies, and eighties."
—Deborah Willis, Professor of Photography and Imaging, New York University
"Moving easily and always engagingly among the fields of aesthetics, social history, black studies, American history and culture, and literary and art criticism, Rethinking Social Realism adds much new terrain to black studies and social history of the mid 1900s."
"Morgan opens the door for more scholarship that holds up the connections—commonalities and diversions—across disciplinary and community boundaries."
"This is an ambitious synthesis of a great deal of material. . . . Rethinking Social Realism is a finely detailed study uncovering much that is original and compelling."
—Journal of American History
"Brilliantly set out . . . Morgan’s book takes the reader on a breathtaking journey into the works of diverse black artists, intellectuals, and writers who gave shape to a broad coalition and a loosely affiliated movement for social change . . . Written in a clear, easy-to-follow style, the book is well researched . . . Morgan has convincingly shown that black social realists of the era were collectively and effectively the racial memory (griots) through their paintings, poems, essays, and activism"
—African American Review
"Stacey Morgan's Rethinking Social Realism is an innovative and valuable book that explores the social realist works of black writers and painters in the era between the Depression and the Cold War. Morgan makes a strategically brilliant move by invigorating our understanding of black social realist writers by placing them in dialogic relationships with black painters."
—Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Rethinking Social Realism expands our understanding of social realism . . . Morgan's multimedia approach gives us a much needed panoramic view . . . Morgan effectively and seamlessly navigates a dense array of artists and writers across several hundred pages . . . well written, intellectually thorough, and well illustrated . . . An exciting, exemplary new contribution that will be useful to scholars in African American literature as well as American studies."
Stacy I. Morgan recalls the social realist atmosphere in which certain African American artists and writers were immersed and shows how black social realism served alternately to question the existing order, instill race pride, and build interracial, working-class coalitions. Morgan discusses, among others, such figures as Charles White, John Wilson, Frank Marshall Davis, Willard Motley, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Elizabeth Catlett, and Hale Woodruff.
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