Dove, Rita, National Humanities Medal, 1996
The Norton Anthology of African American Literature
"If I were allowed one item to represent America at the end of the 20th
century, that item would be a copy of: The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. & Nellie Y. McKay, general editors. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. This groundbreaking volume, 2665 pages strong, provides a lucid and eloquent history of one of this country's most significant subcultures. The ancient African trope of the 'talking book' is linked to the oral tradition developed in this country--from music (spirituals, gospel, blues, jazz, rap) and storytelling (folktales, slave narratives) to poetry, fiction and essays. This vernacular tradition, so important to an understanding of African American life and culture, is elucidated in selections on the accompanying Audio CD." She quotes Ralph Ellison, "America is woven of many strands. Our fate is to become one, and yet many--This is not prophecy, but description."