Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

John Edgar Wideman teaches in the English department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is the author of several books, including "Brothers and Keepers," "Philadelphia Fire" and "The Homewood Trilogy."

Editor's Note: To accompany the review of "The Norton Anthology of African American Literature," the Book Review asked a number of distinguished black Americans to name the works by African Americans that most moved or influenced them.


What has influenced me in African American literary culture is the oral tradition, just as much as the written tradition. In my research I've come across the narratives of ex-slaves, as well as elements of the folk tradition, and all of these rich materials have greatly broadened my understanding of who I am and what I'm doing as a writer. My novel "The Cattle Killing" goes back to that time and draws on those materials and others, like the [18th century] narrative of Bishop Allen. I continue to look to these traditions as a source of creativity in my written work.

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