This chapter examines Negro literature in Illinois, beginning with the literary societies, orators, and slave narratives of the nineteenth century. The Illinois Negroes' interest in literature had been recorded almost a decade before the Civil War by the organization of the Chicago Literary Society. Prior to 1861, there had been thirty-five works of Afro-American authorship published and sold in the United States; at the time of the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893 in Chicago more than 100 had been issued. This chapter considers the literary turn marked by the dialect poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, James Edwin Campbell, and James David Corrothers, along with the free verse of Fenton Johnson. It also discusses the works of other Negro writers such as Frank Marshall Davis, Langston Hughes, and Arna Bontemp, as well as those of a number of white scholars, poets, and novelists from Illinois who had written sympathetically about African Americans.
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